The Stars visited Tennessee tonight for a tilt against the Nashville Predators, their first since winning the Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl, and the third of four games against the club this season.
The Predators and the Stars are both in must-win territory in this late stage of the season. Both teams entered tonight’s game on a three-game losing streak, a streak which (for both) included a loss against a Central Division team currently ahead of them in the standings.
Despite those losses, Dallas still sits third in the Central. Nashville, however, sits firmly in the bubble, currently on the outside looking in. They’re two points behind the Winnipeg Jets, currently holding on to the second Wild Card spot. A win tonight would be huge for either team, but will definitely mean more to the Predators.
The Stars faced Juuse Saros in net tonight for the Predators. Saros has yet to lose against the Stars but he also hasn’t played them a great number of times. Anton Khudobin drew in for the Stars.
There was an emotional start to the game, as this is the Predators’ first home game since the tornado ripped through Central Tennessee on Tuesday, March 3, and took the lives of 24 people and left many others without homes or places of business. A moment of silence was observed in the arena.
The early part of this game belonged to the Stars. Most of the first half of the initial period was played in Nashville’s end. The Predators didn’t even record their first shot on goal until nine minutes had gone by.
In a game that became dominated by special teams, Jason Dickinson drew the first penalty, a holding call against Rocco Grimaldi. Unfortunately, the Stars weren’t able to make much of the power play.
As easy as the Stars made everything look in the first half, the second half saw them struggle a lot with the puck. At one point, Stars color analyst Daryl Reaugh said that the play in front Khudobin “looked dangerous,” as the Stars weren’t giving him a lot of support. Khudobin made some big stops for the Stars during this period, but the defense let the Predators right through the front door.
No struggle was quite as obvious as John Klingberg’s, as he took two penalties in the late part of the first period. Much was made of the Predators’ incredibly woeful power play, up until Filip Forsberg scored his 19th of the season from the face-off dot off a feed from Predators captain Roman Josi.
The second period was even more about special teams than the first. Less than two minutes into the middle frame, the Stars were called for too many men, which was served by Alexander Radulov.
Not to be outdone, the Predators also took a penalty for too many men, served by Viktor Arvidsson. Neither team scored on this man advantage.
Viktor Arvidsson took a second penalty (the first shouldn’t technically count and yet, because he served it, it does), an interference call against Andrew Cogliano, but the Stars didn’t score on that either.
And then, Stephen Johns, sporting a truly impressive mustache, took a tripping penalty against Matt Duchene. Again, even though the Nashville power play has been dreadful prior to this game, Matt Duchene, recovered from his trip, scored with the man advantage.
This is precisely where the Stars found themselves under the gloomy Texas sky on New Year’s Day, down 2-0 on power play goals from the Predators. Unfortunately, through two periods the Stars were unable to draw on whatever reserves they had on January 1.
To end the period, Jamie Oleksiak got rolled against the boards by Colton Sissons, who is half a foot shorter.
Early in the third period, Arvidsson took a third penalty, this time a tripping penalty against John Klingberg. The Stars were again unable to do anything with the man advantage.
This isn’t necessarily a lack of effort on the part of the Stars. Jamie Benn in particular had multiple high-quality chances, and the Stars in total had matched the Predators in shots on goal. The Stars defense had abandoned Khudobin in net and while he made some heroic saves, he made more than he needed to.
However, down two through the entire third, there was no extraordinary effort by the Stars. The Predators, protecting a lead, matched them in shots.
With the goaltender pulled in the dying minutes, the Stars allowed the Predators to ice the puck five times and didn’t register a single shot on goal.
And that was the hockey game, the Stars losing 2-0 to the Predators. This was the first game of a home-and-home; the Nashville Predators will be visiting Dallas on Saturday for an early game. Puck drop will be 1 p.m. CT.