The Dallas Stars were up 4-2 in the second period against the league's worst offensive team in the Nashville Predators Monday night, and again, they saw it all disappear.
Losers now of four of their last six games, the Stars saw their constant nemeses penalty trouble, coverage mistakes, and backup netminding come back to bite them once again as they could not hold a third period lead, mustering only five shots on net in the final frame.
Michael Ryder recorded three assists, Matt Fraser scored his first NHL goal, Benn added two helpers and the power play connected twice, but it goes in the loss column just the same as the Stars continue to drop in the standings.
For what it's worth this was the 10th consecutive game in which they scored three or more goals, which is the longest such stretch in the league this season. Twice in that stretch they've scored four goals and lost.
They'll get on a plane and try to forget about it as they face an improving Columbus team tomorrow, where there is a small, outside chance that Kari Lehtonen could play.
The Predators like to get the puck deep and retrieve, and this was the name of the game for much of the frame. They drop four defensively, turn the puck over at the blue line, chip it in deep, rinse, repeat.
That made for a dearth of chances, and the Stars (according to our count, not NBC's) recorded only one or two actual scoring chance in the frame. As some remarked, six games between these teams might not be all that great after realignment.
Nashville scored, though, on a broken defensive play by back-tracking forwards and then had several other quality looks, including a hit pipe on their power play. The Stars escaped down 1-0 against a team that probably could have had more, but hadn't scored for 133 minutes entering this one.
Add to that the Predators 7-0-5 record when scoring first, and things were already looking a little challenging.
The malaise continued but lulled the Predators to sleep as Loui Eriksson made a fantastic back handed pass to Matt Fraser from behind the goal line. The rookie blasted it past Pekka Rinne to tie the game - His first NHL goal.
Before Stars fans could finish celebrating that one, Michael Ryder, as much of a pure goal scorer as Matt Fraser is, threaded a perfect centering pass to Reilly Smith, who tipped it home for his third NHL goal.
The effect of that one was short lived as well, though, as yet another point shot (as was the case against Vancouver multiple times) got past a Nilstorp who wasn't playing nearly as high as Kari Lehtonen would have been in a similar situation, and the game began anew. Three goals in three and a half minutes.
An action packed second continued as Morrow hit the post, then Reilly Smith and Jordie Benn both swung and missed at a bouncing puck that should have been a slam dunk goal. Vern Fiddler would blast one past Rinne on a delayed call a minute later to get the would-be goals back, and the Stars were up 3-2.
A double-minor for a careless high-stick then put the Preds in the box and on the ensuing penalty a deflected Loui Eriksson pass attempt found its way past Rinne to make it 4-2 Dallas.
Then penalty trouble, and unnecessary trouble at that, handed the momentum right back to Nashville as they scored on a 5-on-3 to close the gap to 4-3. The parade to the penalty box continued with a too-many-men call and the Preds took over a minute of power play time into the third period.
Things settled down in the mold of the first period with the teams exchanging moderately mundane chances, like the one on which the Predators scored to tie the game as Nilstorp allowed another backhander in a key juncture of a game after the Stars defense failed to put a body on Fisher as he drove unimpeded down the middle of the ice.
The building was rocking and it appeared as through the Stars had 11 minutes to survive if they wanted a point out of this one, because four goals against the 30th ranked offense in the league was not going to be enough.
Nashville would out-shoot Dallas 12-5 in the third, taking all the momentum after the equalizer and the Stars did indeed survive after the officiating crew decided to put their whistles away in the games waning minutes.
28 seconds were all it took for Cristopher Nilstorp to get beat by a Roman Josi point shot. 5-4 Predators.
- Michael Ryder now has more assists than goals on the season as he continues to make the most of the changing circumstances and linemates around him, and that find on the Reilly Smith goal was great.
- Penalty trouble - The trio of bad mistakes in the second period were, I'm sure Glen Gulutzan would agree, pretty inexcusable. The too-many-men call was a little petty, but by the letter of the law was a penalty, but what Eric Nystrom and Vern Fiddler did can't happen when you're up 4-2.
- Cristopher Nilstorp - What is there to say? The point shots from defensemen going in, deflected or not, and the backhanders - It's not good right now. Richard Bachman will likely get the start in Columbus, and Kari Lehtonen is well on his way back, possibly for Edmonton Thursday.
- Congratulations to Matt Fraser for scoring his first NHL goal. We wondered if he'd get more than three minutes this go-around, or if he'd get in at all, and they used him to moderate effect at even strength throughout. The goal helps a lot.
- Hornqvist got a lot of pub tonight on Twitter tonight for the same reason Daniel Day Lewis did Sunday.
- As a group we're getting complacent about Jamie Benn. He steps onto the ice and the puck immediately starts going in the right direction nearly every time. Two assists tonight. Ho-hum. He is the alpha-male out there. He needs more help, though.
- Having Loui Eriksson near the point on a power play (only at times) right now seems like a bad idea. He does not seem right, and hasn't all year long, particularly where skating/foot speed are concerned. I may be alone in thinking that, but he has another gear he's been unable to find this season in my opinion.
- Things that are penalties (on both teams) in the second period are not in the third. It's a strange reality of hockey.
- Not getting two points out of this one stings.