The Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 at the Bridgestone Arena to move back into 4th place in the Western Conference with one game remaining on their regular season schedule. The Predators will face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday at the Pepsi Center.
The Stars were eliminated from the playoffs with the loss.
Pekka Rinne got the start for the Predators, and with his 5th shutout of the season sits atop the NHL with 43 wins.
Kari Lehtonen was in net for the Stars, and held the Predators off the board for the first two periods with a solid effort.
The first period was scoreless and took on the tenor of a heavyweight fight as both teams probed the others defense, looking for an opening. The Stars were trapping and the Predators had a difficult time getting their offensive flow established. The Predators defense responded by keeping the Stars to the outside and allowing very few quality chances.
The period ended with the Predators outshooting the Stars 9-8.
The second period was more of the same, with the best scoring chance coming from the Stars, as a shot from the face off circle got through Rinne and trickled toward the goal line. Fortunately, the puck dribbled into the post, and Rinne was able to recover.
Shots were 8-8 in the second period, but the Predators defense continued to force the Stars to the outside and did not allow room in the prime scoring areas. The Stars were desperate, playing for their post season lives, and the Predators matched their desperation and intensity, which was critical in this game.
The Predators finally broke through in then third period as Patric Hornqvist fired a shot that Lehtonen kicked out with his pad. Francis Bouillon and Andrei Kostitsyn converged on the puck, and it was Bouillon that got it on his stick and stuffed a backhand shot past Lehtonen to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 4:28 of the third period.
With the lead, the Stars ramped up their push to get back in the game. The Predators defense was equal to the task and kept the Stars from getting good scoring opportunities.
This was the kind of game where the Predators could not get comfortable with a 1 goal lead, and another goal would all but seal the win for the Predators.
That goal would come at the 18 minute mark as Brandon Yip took a shot and Lehtonen kicked a rebound out into the low slot. The puck was lying between 3 Stars defenders, but it was Patric Hornqvist who swooped in and chipped the puck over the shoulder of Lehtonen to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.
It got interesting late in the game as the Stars pulled Lehtonen for the extra attacker and Mike Fisher was penalized for delay of game at 19:05.
The Predators PK unit came up big as they had done all night with another kill. Hal Gill and Paul Gaustad both blocked shots and the Stars never really threatened the Predators with the 2 man advantage.
This was a solid win by the Predators against a team that was fighting for their playoff destiny. The Predators matched their intensity and effort. The Stars played full tilt, and the Predators matched their effort.
Kudos to the Predators PK unit. They killed all 4 of the Stars power plays, and continue their solid effort. The Predators also blocked 23 shots by the Stars in the game.
The 2 goals tonight bring the Predators season total to 230 with one game remaining. This ties the team record for third most goals scored in a season. Quietly, the Predators have put together a very solid offensive effort with balanced scoring throughout the line up.
The Predators can wrap up home ice with a win in Colorado or loss or an overtime loss by the Wings in their game on Saturday.
The goal of home ice is in sight.
Time to take control of your destiny.
My three stars:
1. Pekka Rinne
2. Patric Hornqvist
3. Francis Bouillon