The Nashville Predators faced the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center looking to get back to their winning ways after dropping a disappointing game on Friday to the Detroit Red Wings. The Predators would be without Mike Fisher, absent because of an illness.
Pekka Rinne got the start in net for the Predators, while the Stars went with Kari Lehtonen.
The AAC has always been a tough barn for the Predators, and it was going to be critical that the team come out with energy and play a solid game.
Dallas struck first at 6:49 of the first period as Mike Ribeiro swung out from behind the net and appeared to be ready to attempt a wrap around shot. Instead, he spotted Michael Ryder, who had eluded the Predators defense and was alone at the side of the net. Ryder had an easy tap in to give the Stars the early 1-0 lead. On the play, Craig Smith, getting the start centering the number one line, lost Ryder, allowing him an easy shot on net.
The Predators have shown an annoying and frustrating tendency to pass up shots, and they were continuing this trend in this game so far. Matt Halischuk got the puck in a prime scoring area and passed up the shot, instead throwing the puck to David Legwand on the boards. Legwand took a bad angle shot that was re-directed by Gabriel Bourque past Lehtonen to tie the game at 1 at 15:39 of the first period.
I guess sometimes it helps to be lucky.
The Predators are going to have to change this trend of passing up shots if they hope to get their offensive game on track. Hopefully, this negative characteristic disappears in this game.
With the Predators on the power play and time winding down, Shea Weber gathered in a rebound of Ryan Suter shot and hammered a shot past Lehtonen with .02 remaining in the period to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
NO shot is a bad shot, eh?
In the first period, the Predators out shot the Stars 10-8.
The second period saw the intensity from both teams continue at the same high level as the first period. Each team continued to play tough defense and create a few scoring chances, but both goaltenders were equal to the task.
At 10:08 of the second, Shea Weber took a wrist shot from the blue line that was deflected and fluttering over the shoulder of Lehtonen into the net. The puck was touched by the glove of Matt Halischuk crashing the net, however, and it was waved off.
The Predators did get their 3-1 lead at 16:05 on a great hustle play by Colin Wilson as he fought off two Stars defenders and walked out of the corner with the puck. His backhand was a beauty to the far post through traffic to cleanly beat Lehtonen, who did not see the puck. For Wilson, this was his 12th goal of the season.
The period ended with the Predators leading 3-1. Both teams recorded five shots on goal, a testament to the tight checking and defense that was being played.
For the Predators, the challenge was to withstand the inevitable push that would come from the Stars in the third period.
And push the Stars did. They were playing like a desperate team and controlling the puck in the Predators zone. The Predators were unable to muster much offense, and with nearly 7 minutes gone in the third period, the Stars had out shot the Predators 7-1.
Once again, Pekka Rinne was called upon to make some big saves to hold the Stars off the board. The Predators to this point had been guilty of sitting back and letting the Stars dictate play.
Alex Goligoski made it a 1 goal game as he pinched down from his defense position and beat Rinne on a bad goal with a shot from the boards that beat the Nashville netminder short side at the post. The score came at 15:11, setting up a war for the final 4:49.
With 2:05 remaining in the game, Hal Gill was called for tripping, the Predators first penalty of the game. The pressure was now on the Predators PK unit to come up with a big kill.
And come up big they did. The Stars pulled Lehtonen, and facing a 6 on 4 power play, the PK unit was stellar, forcing the Stars to the outside. The Stars got a glorious chance as the puck got loose at the side of the net and Mike Ribeiro misfired on the shot, sending it behind the Predators net. The Predators killed off the power play, and as the horn sounded, skated away with a much needed 2 points.
Nashville was out shot 11-6 in the third period, but that belies the fact that the Stars controlled play for much of the final 20 minutes. Kudos to Pekka Rinne for making some huge saves and keeping the Stars off the board.
This was a solid win for the Predators as they were missing their top two leading scorers in Fisher and Patric Hornqvist, who is on IR. The Predators battled and were once again opportunistic in their scoring, and this two points is precious for this team. It allows them to keep pace with the Blues and keep some distance between themselves and the Blackhawks.
The effort tonight is a carryover of a solid effort from the previous game, and they will have to continue to bring this kind of effort in the remaining games.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Michael Ryder
3. Colin Wilson