With the Stanley Cup playoffs race tightening up, the Victory Green Gang needed to take advantage of every matchup that could swing the competition in their favor. But even with three games in hand, a punishing schedule and persistent injuries have had the Stars running out of road. Can they take advantage of the Predators’ own injury woes in at least one of their last two head-to-head contests?
The short answer is, not tonight. The long answer will have to wait.
Two tired and tetchy teams spent nearly five minutes trading hits – 29 of them, by the end of the frame – and takeaways to open the game. Then, at 4:56, came this videogame hero. Roope Hintz drew first blood with his 13th goal of the season, sniping in this one-timer off a beautifully timed pass from John Klingberg.
The lead was not to last the period, however. Ryan Ellis tied the game six minutes later with a wrister from the blueline, assisted by Luke Kunin, that bounced off the pipe and made it past a screened Anton Khudobin.
It also didn’t take long for the well-documented hatred between these teams to boil over. Specifically, it happened after Blake Comeau threw this hit on Mattias Ekholm.
"how to make new friends" by blake comeau pic.twitter.com/8VnGNIkcuk— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) April 12, 2021
Viktor Arvidsson went to take up for his guy, and Andrew Cogliano obliged him with fisticuffs, which landed both of them in the sin bin for five minutes of four-on-four hockey. Khudobin helped keep the game level with a key save on Ekholm.
There were three hits in the last 15 seconds of this period, two of them involving Cogliano and the other involving Comeau. And so the period ended pretty much how it began.
Shots on goal:
DAL – 9
NSH – 8
This period, the Preds got to open their account first. Yakov Trenin scored his fourth of the season at 2:09 from an assist by Colton Sissons.
The next 10 minutes were mostly notable for the shots that didn’t go in. Roman Josi earned the first non-offsetting penalty of the game for tripping Andrew Cogliano, but the Stars’ lack of energy told on them and the power play ended with nothing to show for it.
But the Jamie Oleksiak penalty that followed, for holding on Rocco Grimaldi, brought down chaos all of a sudden and all at once. Andrej Sekera stopped an Arvidsson one-timer with his ankle and had to hobble off the ice, even as Cogliano had to head for the bench due to a lost helmet. They managed to kill the Nashville power play, with some help from a badly missed shot by Calle Jarnkrok. They also managed to draw another penalty after Trenin got caught cross-checking Oleksiak.
Unfortunately, they had to work their second power play without help from their most reliable weapon. John Klingberg left the ice to get stitches in his chin after catching a high stick, and it’s a bit of a shame that there was no penalty on that. The 4 -and-1 formation brought some energy but still weren’t able to convert, and another power play chance came up empty.
Oleksiak took matters into his own hands in the final moments of the period. It seemed fitting that after such an active frame, the Big Rig added the final exclamation point, picking up a feed from Hintz and scoring on a stunning coast-to-coast trip with 1:04 left.
Khudobin denied the Predators a last chance to go to the dressing room with a lead by robbing Ryan Johansen with six seconds left before intermission.
Shots on goal:
DAL – 7 (16 total)
NSH – 5 (13 total)
We should probably learn to expect that important Stars-Preds game will be decided in overtime. Klingberg returned in the third, with fresh embroidery, but ominously, Sekera did not. This left the Stars playing five defenders at a moment when they were pouring out everything they had to win the game in regulation.
The Stars soon gained an enormous advantage in shots on goal, but none of them found twine. One more big opportunity came at 14:37 when Josi took his second penalty of the game, this time for hooking Denis Gurianov – but once again the power play couldn’t make it through Juuse Saros.
A late icing call gave the Predators a faceoff in front of the Stars’ net, but the set play fell apart when Khudobin sat on the puck and stopped it cold. A second attempt came up short, and regulation ended on the tie.
Shots on goal:
DAL – 9 (25 total)
NSH – 4 (17 total)
This is one of those situations where you can see the way injuries as well as back-to-back games have depleted both these rosters. There were a few attempts, but none of them were successful, and so the game would end in a skills competition.
Shots on goal:
DAL – 1 (26 total)
NSH – 3 (20 total)
Dallas didn’t miss for lack of trying. Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski and Hintz all took their chances, but Ryan Johansen’s opening shot would turn out to be the game-winner. And so the Stars’ OT nightmare continues.
To wrap up: The Stars gained only one point on their closest rivals. That said, they did gain a point. Moreover, they’ve taken five of six out of their last three games before the NHL trade deadline. Can they sustain that pace over their remaining 11 games in April? We’ll soon find out.