The Nashville Predators handed the Dallas Stars a 4-1 victory at the Bridgestone Arena in front of the 7th consecutive sellout for the home team.
"Handed?" Sour grapes?
Consider that in a 1-1 game, the Predators made two egregious mistakes that wound up in the back of their net and allowed the Stars to take control of the game and cement a win.
Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne is owed an apology by the team in front of him.
I will get to that in a moment.
First, the Predators welcomed back Shea Weber, who missed four games due to a cheap shot from the Stars Mark Fistric in a game just before Christmas. Weber was his usual physical self and appeared not to miss a beat, as he logged 25:45 of ice time.
As to the game, the Stars struck first as Mike Ribeiro got the Stars on the board first at 4:18 of the first period. Ribeiro undressed Roman Josi in front of the net, and the Predators forward was late getting back on the line change to help. Ribeiro made a nice move in the low slot and beat Rinne glove side to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
The Predators answered at 8:31 of the first as Gabriel Bourque tallied his first NHL goal off some hard work and a nice pass from Jordin Tootoo. Tootoo fought for and won the puck behind the net and found Bourque in the low slot with a nice pass. Bourque buried the wrister behind Kari Lehtonen to tie the game at 1.
With time winding down in the first period, Ribeiro took a shot that eluded Rinne and was lying in the blue paint. Kevin Klein came back to help his goalie, but instead of securing the puck, accidentally knocked it into the net to give the Stars a 2-1 lead at 19:21 of the first period.
In the second period, the Predators gave the Stars another goal as Ryan Suter made a blind drop pass behind the net thinking that Nick Spaling would be there to take possession of the puck. Spaling was nowhere to be found, and the puck was taken by Jamie Benn at the goal line, and he fired a quick shot on the surprised Rinne that caromed off his skate and into the net to make it 3-1 at 6:28.
In the third period, Adam Burish gathered in a puck that the Predators failed to clear and then over skated in the defensive zone and fired a shot past a screened Rinne to make it 4-1 at 12:53 of the third period. This would be the final margin of the game.
For the Predators, this was a disappointing effort. Giving the Stars 3 goals is certainly a formula for defeat. The Predators offensive effort was negligible for the night. David Legwand, Mike Fisher, Marty Erat, and Sergei Kostitsyn were virtually invisible in this game, and for the Predators to have success, they have to be more effective and create chances.
By far, the best line for the Predators was the Tootoo, Bourque, Spaling line. They played with energy and enthusiasm, and were a force on the ice.
There was a large dose of animosity on the ice. Fistric was going to pay for his cheap shot on Weber, and early on was challenged by Jordin Tootoo. Fistric was not going to trade punches with Toots, and was content to hang on and try to wrestle with his opponent. When called out, Fistric would not answer.
As I mentioned, the effort tonight by the Predators was disappointing. Giving the Stars three goals doomed their effort against a team they need to beat and should beat.
There will be two more meetings against the Stars. Hopefully the Predators will not give them any goals in those contests.
My three stars:
1. Mike Ribeiro
2. Kari Lehtonen
3. Gabriel Bourque