Well that wasn't quite what we were hoping for. The Stars started off well, and ended well, because score effects, but left a lot to be desired in the middle.
Cody Eakin was the undisputed first star of the first period. For both teams.
Early in the game a Predators goal was waved off, quite rightly, due to goaltender interference, and instead the Stars powerplay (ranked 28th in the league coming in, who knew?) went to work, with Eakin benefiting from a huge swathe of space as he skated in on the right side and received a cross ice pass. A nice 2-point swing for the Stars, going from potentially a goal down, to a goal up after the powerplay tally.
Not long after, a second review led to another Nashville goal not standing. This time because not a single person thought it was a goal to begin with. Not that the Predators' commentators wouldn't have you thinking they were hard done by.
They got their goal though, soon after the halfway mark in the period. A 2 on 1, with the Stars defensemen seeming to defend it well, sliding down and taking away the pass. Only instead the puck was passed back to a Predator joining the rush, and none of the Stars backcheckers seemed to pick up anyone. Shot, lovely rebound on the stick of a Predator, 1-1 game.
Gonchar nearly answered right back after Seguin had skated around on his own in the Nashville zone for an eternity, but the shot from the point rang off the post.
A breathless series of play later resulted in Nashville taking their first lead of the game. First Eakin took an unecessary hooking penalty, then Garbutt broke his stick blocking a shot on the powerplay and Nashville hit a post soon after. With Eakin joining play again he had a good break on Hutton, with his shot rebounding out to a charging Jamie Benn who shot it into Hutton's pad. Back to the other end, Benn lost an edge trying to pick off a pass to Weber, who instead took advantage of the now open shooting lane and roofed one over Kari.
Quite a similar position to the last game against the Wild, where the Stars had a clear lead in shot attempts (albeit not quite so marked as that against the Wild) and yet still entered the first intermission with a one goal deficit.
Barry Trotz said the second period was 'a little sloppy.' I'd have just said boring. Until the last few minutes anyway, when it was just not good.
Period started off well, with Horcoff being ejected from the faceoff circle for slashing the ref. Woops.
The next 12 minutes allowed most of us watching to catch a quick nap, and then Roussel got tangled up with a Predators player who went down and it got called holding. Because, Roussel. Of course, all this meant was that we were treated to a fairly innocuous powerplay, instead of innocuous even-strength play. Until the last 5 seconds anyway, when a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play left Cullen open on the doorstep. Fortunately, Kari was on the doorstep as well.
The Stars finally had a decent chance a couple minutes later, with Eakin ringing a shot off the post (yet another Stars shot off the post). And then Roussel and Kevin Klein decided to spice things up again and at least get Razor excited again about the hockey game.
So the Stars are going into the second intermission only down by one and... wait. Nope. There it is. The Stars give up a late goal, losing a puck battle behind the net, Gonchar trying to clear it but missing, and Garbutt providing the perfect screen to allow the blast to beat Lehtonen.
Preds outshot the Stars 11-6 in the second.
Wait, what? A defensive breakdown and a 2 on 1 for Nashville? I hate to say it guys, but people around the league are noticing.
Dallas, do you even defense?— Jen LC (@bhawksfanjen) January 21, 2014
4-1 Predators, early in the third. Not an ideal position for the Stars to be in against a team that is quite happy to close down completely with the slightest lead.
Wanna see score effects in action? Shots 19-3 in favor of the Stars in the third period. But the Stars couldn't find a way to get another one past Hutton.
If you're looking to find one thing to point at and shout excitedly 'There it is! There's the problem with the Stars!' Try this: The Stars have allowed six goals in the final two minutes of a period this month, and three more in the first two minutes of a period.
Benn and Seguin began the game on different lines, but were together again in the second. I guess the whole point was to spread the scoring threats, but seeing as there was still only one threatening line in the first, might as well reunite them.
Stars have given up 39 goals in the last ten games. Doesn't take too much mathematical ability to realize how bad that is.
Dallas outshot the Predators 35-23. Yet another game where a significant advantage in the shots department has translated to a loss.
Are the Stars really going offside more often of late, or am I just getting more incensed every time they do?
It seemed that splitting up Roussel and Garbutt rendered both of them ineffectual. Roussel was of course his feisty self, but Garbutt seemed largely absent, except for his perfect screen on Lehtonen to allow the fourth Nashville goal.