Niederreiter scores in debut, Predators top Sharks in Prague

PRAGUE (AP) — Nino Niederreiter scored his debut goal for the Nashville Predators, who beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 in the Czech capital on Friday night in the NHL regular-season opener.

The teams will play again on Saturday at Prague's O2 Arena as part of the league's return to Europe for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kiefer Sherwood became the first player to score this season, putting Nashville on top 1:01 into the game. Eeli Tolvanen also scored and Matt Duchene finished it off with an empty-netter.

Tomas Hertl scored for San Jose in the first period, delighting the roaring crowd of 16,648 in his hometown. Tolvanen's goal at 1:24 of the second put the Predators ahead to stay.

The Predators outshot the Sharks 32-31 while Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros stopped 30 shots.

Niederreiter was a key offseason addition for the Predators, who are hoping to continue a run of eight straight playoff berths. That's tied with Washington for the second-longest active streak in the league.

Niederreiter's goal made it 3-1 late in the second period on a one-timer off a feed from Dante Fabbro.

Sherwood scored on a rebound past goaltender James Reimer.

The 28-year-old Hertl, who recently signed a $65.1 million, eight-year contract to remain with San Jose, picked up a feed Timo Meier and found the roof of the net just 6 seconds after a Sharks power play ended.

The Sharks converted on just 19% of power plays last season, and they struggled again on Friday.

ACROSS THE POND HOCKEY

This is the ninth season the NHL has played games in Europe, where it hopes to connect with fans in hockey-mad countries including the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland.

Nashville played in Europe for the first time. The Predators were set to open the 2020-21 season in Prague against the Boston Bruins before the pandemic scrapped those plans.

The Sharks have contested four previous games outside North America. They faced the Columbus Blue Jackets twice in Stockholm and played two games against the Calgary Flames in Tokyo in 1998.

Friday’s opener was the first NHL game in Europe since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres faced off in Stockholm on Nov. 9, 2019.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 4, 2019 were the last NHL teams to play in Prague.

The league’s 2022 Global Series will conclude in Tampere, Finland, where the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche will face the Blue Jackets on Nov. 4-5.

NOTES

Friday’s matchup was the 29th regular-season game played in Europe and the sixth in Prague. ... Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Friday that the schedule for next year's games in Europe will be announced in “a relatively near future.”

UP NEXT

The teams complete the series on Saturday night.

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Karel Janicek, The Associated Press