Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The regulation losses continued to pile up for the Stars Tuesday night as the league's 30th ranked Nashville Predator offense notched three before the game was even half over at American Airlines Center.
The Nashville Predators can't score. They've been held to one or fewer goals in six of their last eight games.
Against the Dallas Stars, however, they're offensive juggernauts. Without top offensive talents Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson Nashville's 30th ranked offense once again lit up Glen Gulutzan's crew by a score of 4-0, this following a five-goal explosion in Nashville against Dallas two weeks ago.
Dallas started well, out-shooting Nashville 8-1 to start the game, but penalty trouble soon followed and Nashville generated momentum with power plays and a successful penalty shot.
Superior defensive positioning and patience helped keep the quality of the Stars' chances to a minimum as Pekka Rinne saw relatively little dangerous action, though the Stars accumulated 32 shots on his net. Following the Coyotes' 30 block performance Saturday night, Dallas saw the Predators block 21 more.
It's the second consecutive loss for the Stars with no OTL points to show, dropping them to 11th in the West, only a single point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers, both of whom put some money in the metaphorical bank tonight.
Prior to this one the Predators had recorded six consecutive losses on the road, with their last road win coming on February 5th. It's Dallas' fourth regulation loss in their last six home games.
The Stars, despite losing 9 of the game's first 10 faceoffs, dominated play for the first half of the frame, out-shooting the Predators 8-1, including a power play that did everything but score.
Then an Alex Goligoski delay of game penalty swung momentum, and though the Stars killed the two-minutes off Nashville continued attacking. A Jamie Oleksiak giveaway in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 shortly thereafter, and a 1-0 Predator lead on a shot from Nick Spaling.
A second penalty by Alexi Goligoski continued Predator possession, but the Stars killed it as well. Dallas recorded 8 shots on goal in the period's first 8:41, then only one more in the final 11+ minutes.
Immediate penalty trouble, this time courtesy of Brenden Dillon allowed Nashville to keep their momentum, and the team that can't score goals promptly went up 2-0 on a weak Shea Weber backhand shot that hit something on its way to fooling Lehtonen.
Dallas pushed back a little after that but were unable to test Rinne in any threatening way. The Stars were given a power play on a weak call on Rich Clune, but failed to register a shot on goal or real chance during the ensuing advantage.
Clune came out of the box to a free puck and broke in on Kari Lehtonen while Jordie Benn latched on with the stick for a free ride from behind, and a penalty shot was awarded. The former Stars' draft pick scored and pushed the Predator advantage to an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
With a 3-0 lead the Predators needed no further offense, and played a careful game, needing 14 minutes and a Dallas penalty to record their first shot of the frame, but the damage had been done.
The Stars' power play, improved greatly as of late, was given two chances to get the offense started but Nashville continued to block shots in the front of their goaltender and Dallas couldn't capitalize.
Needing three goals just to tie, the Stars recorded only three shots on goal in the third period through the frame's first 12 minutes.
Perfunctory fights and penalties ensued, but had no bearing on the game and will receive no exposition here.
- Ray Whitney returned and contributed quality chemistry to the Derek Roy line, which looked to be the Stars' best trio tonight.
- Cody Eakin, Reilly Smith and Jaromir Jagr was a mixed bag, having some success early but were frustrated as the game moved along. If Jamie Benn isn't gone long, this is not something that will get a chance to bake in the oven much, so we won't dwell on it.
- Rookies - The trio of rookie defensemen had a rough night in the early going. Jamie Oleksiak had the giveaway that led to the first goal. Brenden Dillon had a penalty that sapped momentum for Dallas in the second, and Jordie Benn wasn't moving his feet as he hooked Rich Clune on the way to a penalty shot. It's just life with 50% of your defensive core in their first NHL season.
- That being said, Alex Goligoski's two first-period penalties were none too helpful either.
- It's hard to fault Kari Lehtonen individually on the three goals that really decided this game. The Weber backhander was deflected. The penalty shot was... well, a penalty shot. The first one he might like to have back as it snuck under his arm pit. Fair or not, it wasn't the performance they needed as the Predator defense stifled them at the other end.
- There's not a lot to say about this one. Like the Edmonton game at home, it was a complete stinker.
- The schedule just gets harder and harder with Anaheim and Chicago coming to American Airlines Center Thursday and Saturday. The math is starting to look pretty difficult with less than half of the year remaining, and a strength of schedule that's not very favorable.