Panthers Spoil Predators' Debut

Nashville Predators fans saw their first regular-season hockey game Saturday night, but they're still waiting to see their team score its first goal.

The sellout crowd at

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  • Nashville Arena was given cheering lessons before the game and were boisterous throughout, but Ray Whitney silenced them with a power-play goal early in the third period that gave the Florida Panthers a 1-0 victory.

    "I wish we could have gotten a goal," Nashville coach Bary Trotz said. "I wanted that horn to go off so bad."

    Nashville had two good scoring chances late in the third period. During a power play, John Slaney took a pass at the left side of the net and tried to stuff in the puck, but Panthers goaltender Kirk McLean stopped him. In the final minute, McLean made a pad save on Jamie Heward's wrist shot in front.

    "They're going to be a team that just throws everything at the net and tries to get the so-called garbage goals," said McLean, who stopped 26 shots.

    The shutout was McLean's 21st overall and first with the Panthers, whom he joined last season after starting the year with Vancouver and playing briefly for Carolina.

    Predators goaltender Mike Dunham matched McLean's shutout until Whitney took a cross-ice pass from Gord Murphy at the bottom of the left circle and one-timed it past Dunham at 2:27.

    "When you're going to shoot you've got to get the goalie moving," he said. "The goalies in this league are too good to score on them if they've got time to set up."

    Both teams started slowly, with Florida looking sluggish from playing the night before and the Predators perhaps too eager to please the sellout crowd of 17,298. Nashville fans saw their first fight before their team got its first shot nearly seven minutes into the fist period.

    The Predators' best early scoring opportunity came when Andrew Brunette tried to stuff in a rebound but was stopped by McLean midway through the first period.

    Nashville's mascot, Gnash, dropped from the arena ceiling between periods but his arrival did nothing to spur the teams' offense, which continued to sputter in the second period.

    The crowd-pleaser of the period turned out to be the fight between the Predators' Patrick Cote and Panthers defenseman Paul Laus. The crowd roared when Cote took Laus to the ice after hammering him with rights.

    Neither team was very good on the power play. The Panthers failed to score on their first eight advantages and wound up 1-of-9, while the Predators were 0-for-6.

    Dunham, a backup for New Jersey last year, was sharp all night, stopping 25 of the 26 shots he faced.

    "We wanted to go out and have a good showing and I think we did," he said.

    Trotz was pleased, too. He felt the team of cast-offs and minor leaguers played especially well on defense.

    "This was a good confidence-builder for us," he said. " ... We found out we can play in the National Hockey League. This is the start for an organization that wants to build to win the Stanley Cup."

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