Fast Start Doesn't Last as Dallas Stars Fall 4-1 to Nashville Predators

The Stars fell apart a bit in the third period as Nashville was able to shut down their offense.

In the first 10 minutes or so of Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators, it looked like the Dallas Stars were still firing on all cylinders like they were to start the season.

But as the game went along, it became clear things were going in an entirely different direction. The Predators didn't get on the board until the last minute of the second period but were able to take advantage of a hard-checking defense to stifle the Stars offense and win the game 4-1.

The Stars came out flying with the same style of game that was so successful against the Blackhawks on Thursday, and Antoine Roussel was able to take advantage as he took a pass from Ryan Garbutt and a Trevor Daley charge to the net to slide one through Pekka Rinne.

While the shots never started piling up for Dallas in the first, they were able to generate a fair amount of possession and zone time. That couldn't be said for the second, in which Nashville took the momentum from an early power play to dominate both possession and shots. Lindback came up big several times as the Predators kept the Stars from gaining speed through the neutral zone and at times hemmed them in their own end.

Even a Stars power play couldn't stem the tide, and the Preds eventually took advantage in the final minute of the period when a Shea Weber point blast took a nasty deflection off the pile of Alex Goligoski and Craig Smith. The puck very well may have tipped off Smith's stick well above his shoulders, but video replay didn't overturn the goal.

While the Stars looked a little better to start the third, it was the Predators who took their first lead of the night when a bad switch between Goligoski and Tyler Seguin left Paul Gaustad open at the side of the net. Gaustad showed patience and tucked the puck in the far side.

The Preds doubled their lead shortly thereafter at 4-on-4, when Eric Nystrom scored on a 2-on-1. This was a goal Lindback probably wants back as a backhand snuck in shortside.

Things devolved into a penalty fest late as the Stars got frustrated and took some... interesting unsportsmanlike and interference penalties (some completely deserved, others more questionable). They finally got an empty net opportunity late, which Roman Josi used to score from his own zone with two seconds left..

Quick hits from my sofa
  • The Stars certainly came out with a lot of energy but weren't able to maintain it. The third line with Cody Eakin, Roussel and Garbutt was markedly less able to maintain offensive zone possession late as compared to the first period. Tyler Seguin notably looked like he didn't have his first step, though that is understandable given he missed practice yesterday with an illness. Please don't let this be another mystery bug that runs through the whole team like December of last year.
  • Give the Predators credit - they certainly had the Stars well scouted. They focused a ton of energy on being able to cut off outlet passes up the wall near the Dallas defensive blue line, and as the game went on they were more and more successful. This led to the Stars trying increasingly wild passes to the neutral zone that didn't go anywhere.
  • They also put tons of forecheck pressure on the Dallas defense. None of the pairs were immune, and all had some stinky turnover moments (a very technical term, to be sure).
  • The lesson of the previous points is this - teams know that Dallas wants to go fastfastfast and play a transition heavy game, and they are going to do everything in their power to take away the Stars favorite methods of doing that. While dump-and-chase hockey is surely not this team's preferred plan, there is something to be said for making a play to get it deep if nothing else is clicking. Forcing passes that lead to turnovers is as bad or worse than a 30 percent chance of winning back a dump-in or hard pass off the boards and out.
  • The shots ended up 32-18 for the Preds. Even if you don't quite buy that accuracy, that's not a strategy for success on a team that wants to live and die by offensive production.
  • From a positive side, Lindback had a strong first two periods. He probably wants the third goal back, but he'd been under pretty constant pressure for a while by that point. His puck handling skills are.... something the Stars are definitely not used to at this point.
  • The other two additions into the lineup, Jamie Oleksiak and Erik Cole, were both pretty quiet. Cole had no shots in 11:10 of ice time but seemed to work well with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky from an offensive cycle point of view, and Oleksiak had three hits (and more importantly, no glaring errors or times where he looked immoble) in 14:10.
  • A couple notes about reffing, since I am the resident nerd about such things. I did not find this a particularly well called game, but beyond that, it was certainly not called in a manner that suits how the Stars play. The Stars are a team that wants a tighter, "new NHL" style interference standard, where off-puck bumps after release or the picks of players trying to come down a lane are illegal. This was an old NHL style game from that manner, and the Stars are going to need to be able to adjust their game to cope. If the refs are allowing defensive off-puck contact or a long-standard for hits after release, the Stars need to respond better than forcing things.
  • But along those lines, games with that type of interference standard are exactly why players dive. If the ref isn't going to call a defender for checking a non-puck carrying forward out of his offensive lane, then the thought in the offensive player's mind is "I'll just go down next time to show the contact." And the type of scrums the officials allowed at the end without giving out matching minors to cool everyone down leads to the type of anger that gets someone hurt. A ref has the same impact on the game whether he makes or doesn't make calls.
  • Both those points made, it's pretty clear reffing wasn't even in the discussion of why the Stars lost. They got frustrated with the Nashville defensive scheming and tried to get fancier and fancier rather than simplifying. That's a roadblock we knew this team was going to run into this season, and perhaps it's best to have that sort of challenge now early so that they can find more productive ways of countering rather than upping the 60-foot pass attempts.