In a preview of this year’s Winter Classic, the Dallas Stars traveled to Tennessee tonight to take on the Nashville Predators for the first time since meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. When, by the way, the Stars dispatched the Predators in six games.
The Predators are depleted by injury, but are well rested for tonight’s game; they last played on Thursday night in a 4-3 loss to Buffalo. The Stars are on the second half of a back-to-back that included an overtime loss, travel, and an early start to the game. So both teams started the game at a deficit, and only one would overcome.
It took more than seven minutes for the Predators to register a shot on goal, but the Stars did not cover themselves in glory in the early going either, they only had two shots on goal in that time frame.
The shots ended up being 11-9 in favor the Stars, but the first period was more of a scramble than anything. The Stars did have two power play opportunities when Craig Smith was called for high sticking and Matt Irwin was called for slashing, but the Stars managed precisely zero shots on goal during that four minutes of man advantage.
Stars power play still leaving something to be desired— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) December 15, 2019
And in a new segment I will be calling Your Moment of Hockey Injustice:
For some reason, icing was called on this play, even though Miro Heiskanen clearly won the foot race.
So if the first period was kind of boring (spoilers, it was) the second was almost too hot to handle. Five goals were scored in the middle frame and four of those were your Dallas Stars. But the Predators scored first, so let’s get that out of the way.
One minute into the period, the Stars were unable to control a rebound in their zone, leaving Austin Watson the opportunity to tip a puck in in front of Anton Khudobin.
A Nashville shot goes off the post, comes back out, and Nashville gets another chance. Austin Watson tips a puck in front of Khudobin and the Preds get the opening goal.— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) December 15, 2019
DAL 0 - 1 NSH | #DALvsNSH pic.twitter.com/NwXUrLcozu
Two minutes later, Andrew Cogliano was called for an illegal check to the head on Matt Irwin. It didn’t look intentional, Irwin pulled up his forward momentum as Cogliano turned for the hit, but still, incidental contact was made with Irwin’s head.
The Predators went on the power play and, completely unbelievably, Blake Comeau broke away with the puck and carried it in to score one on one against Pekka Rinne.
Two minutes later, Alexander Radulov battled the puck into the Predators zone, shook off a defender in the corner, caught Justin Dowling with a pass, who found Roope Hintz in the slot in front of the net. Hintz had three players screening Rinne for him, who never saw the puck coming.
Radulov continued to do the lion’s share of the puck possession in this middle frame, and set up both Tyler Seguin for the primary assist and offensive lion Jamie Oleksiak for the goal.
This is Oleksiak’s first goal with the Dallas Stars since December 2017, prior to the trade to Pittsburgh, and it honestly a very good looking goal. The switch from forehand to backhand right in front of the net and his exceptionally long reach certainly helped get this past Rinne.
Any Stars fan coming into tonight would have laughed at the idea that at the end of the second period, the score would be 4-1 with goals from Comeau, Oleksiak, and Andrew Cogliano, but here we are anyway. Cogliano picked the puck in the neutral zone and carried it in with Radek Faksa. He put the puck on net and picked up his own rebound for a goal.
That’s four goals in just over eleven minutes in the second period alone. We’ve been here before with the Stars though, and the challenge going into the third will be maintaining this momentum instead of turtling up and protecting their lead, which always, always leads to mistakes.
The Predators spent a lot of time in the third trying to catch up to the Stars score, to no avail. The shots on goal
Cogliano had a weak goaltender interference call a little over halfway into the period. Rinne really sold this one.
Oleksiak had a justified call of interference against Calle Jarnkrok, during which the Predators had more shots on goal than the Stars have with the man advantage. They also managed to break 40 shots on goal against Anton Khudobin, who is the Stars unsung hero of the night.
Rinne was pulled with three minutes left to go while the Predators were still on the power play but then put back in at even strength.
A win against a Central Division team is unusual for the Stars, and one can only hope that this is a foreshadowing of their tilt under the open sky. The next time these two teams will meet will be at the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
The Stars will be in Tampa Bay on Thursday, puck drop will be at 6 pm central.