Craig Smith, Shea Weber and Eric Nystrom all scored in the third period, and the Predators beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 Thursday night, giving Laviolette a win in his Nashville debut. It was an immediate change for a team that went 3-28-4 last season when trailing after two periods.
"I think it's important for a team to establish that they can win in the third period," Laviolette said. "That was probably the most important thing. They battled back, they didn't surrender. They just kept pushing through, and you have to give them a lot of credit. They just kept their foot on the gas."
Smith tied it at 1 with his power-play goal 1:36 into the third of the season opener for both teams. Then Weber, the three-time Norris Trophy finalist, skated around the net before flipping a backhander over a diving Craig Anderson for the lead. Nystrom scored at 10:20, and Filip Forsberg and Paul Gaustad each had two assists.
Kyle Turris and Alex Chiasson each scored for Ottawa. Chiasson's power-play goal gave the Senators a chance to rally within the final two minutes. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped a flurry in front of the net with about 30 seconds left to preserve the victory.
"Overall, it's a just a good start," Rinne said. "I thought it wasn't a fluky win. I thought we deserved it. We played really well."
The Predators let coach Barry Trotz go after missing the playoffs in April for a second straight season, and general manager David Poile hired Laviolette as the second coach in the franchise's history. The Predators also brought in James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Olli Jokinen and Derek Roy to help in the rugged Western Conference.
Nashville outshot Ottawa 37-20 overall and 23-14 through two periods. But the Predators remained scoreless until Roy helped get the Predators started with an assist on Smith's goal to get the sellout crowd going.
"It's a lot of fun," Nystrom said. "It's good to get the building to erupt, and it's a good start at home."
Fans even gave David Legwand — the first draft pick in Nashville history — a standing ovation when a video honouring his Predators' career played in the first period. Traded to Detroit late last season, Legwand now is with the Senators and was preparing to take the faceoff when the video played. But he skated to the wrong penalty box in the second period.
"It's tough going to one for 15 years, and then you've got to go to the other one," Legwand said. "It's over and done with. I'm happy that it's over and done with and I move forward."
The Senators are used to opening on the road with this their fourth straight season away from Ottawa at the start, and this is the first of a three-game road swing.
Anderson stopped 23 shots through the first two periods and was protecting a 1-0 lead into the third before giving up the quick goals to Weber and Nystrom.
"I thought we were just in a little bit too much of a hurry to get going in the offensive side of it until we had things under control on the defensive side of it," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said.
The Predators opened the third finishing a power play, and Forsberg found Smith at the left post with a cross-ice pass. Smith tapped the puck past Anderson to tie it up.
Weber's goal is an example of Laviolette giving defenceman permission to join the rush, but the coach credited the defenceman's instincts on his goal as well.
"There was a look there that he saw and took it and ended up coming out the other way and finding its way in," Laviolette said. "But certainly our defencemen they can push from the backside."
The Senators had a final chance when Smith went to the penalty box with 1:57 left for hooking. They just couldn't beat Rinne, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist who played only 24 games last season because of an infected hip.
NOTES: The Predators improved to 8-7-1 in season openers. ... Weber now has 107 goals since the start of the 2008-09 season. ... Both games between these teams went to extra time last season. The Predators now are 4-4-1 in Nashville against Ottawa. ... Roy now has eight points in nine season openers (3 goals, 5 assists).