It was a wild game at Bridgestone Arena tonight as the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars exchanged the lead several times before the Preds tied the game in the third period and won it in overtime.
I was actually at the game tonight, sitting in Section 303 for the first time in 12 years of going to Preds games. The first period was a pretty sedate affair, with only Craig Smith’s goal at 13:43 leaving a mark on the score sheet. But the second period got ugly and did so in a hurry.
The Stars’ Matt Fraser scored his first NHL goal at 1:20 and was followed at 1:45 by Reilly Smith to make the game 2-1, evoking up shades of last Monday’s loss to Colorado. Then Roman Josi struck at 3:05 to tie things up at 2-2. Then, with Martin Erat already in the box for holding, Mike Fisher got whistled for high-sticking and former Pred Vernon Fiddler scored for Dallas at 7:29 on a nice shot from the left circle with the extra attacker on, making it 3-2 Dallas. That negated Erat’s penalty but Fisher was given a double minor. Loui Eriksson scored on the first half to make it a 4-2 game, but the Preds managed to kill off the second half to stop the bleeding.
It was just after that when things got ugly. After a whistle to stop play in the Dallas zone, Eric Nystrom egged Brandon Yip on until he dropped the gloves; Nystrom was hit with an unsportsmanlike minor in addition to his fighting major, and the Preds went on the power play. Then, already up a man, the Preds got to go 5-on-3. Fiddler and Fisher tangled for coincidental roughing minors, but Fiddler got an unsportsmanlike of his own to fill the Dallas box with three players. Somehwhere in the middle of all this tussling, Shea Weber got hit in the face and was left with blood on his face for the rest of the game. Patric Hornqvist scored at 13:43, just before the 5-on-3 was set to expire, and the Preds had pulled the game back to 4-3.
Dallas would hold the lead until Mike Fisher came through with an incredible individual effort, the kind which has eluded him on a regular basis pretty much this entire season. He looked calm and collected with two Dallas defenders draped over him and burned Cristopher Nilstorp to tie the game at 4-4. Lots of chances back and forth resulted in nothing before overtime began.
Dallas won the opening faceoff in overtime and carried into the Nashville zone but couldn’t manage a shot. Sergei Kostitsyn picked up the puck in the neutral zone and carried it into the zone before finding Roman Josi behind the play, just inside the left blue line. Josi wound up a slapper and let it rip, beating Nilstorp high blocker-side for the game-winner.
- The turning point came when the game was 4-2 for the Stars and Weber was bloodied. He stapled Mark Fraser to the boards off to the right of Pekka Rinne, drawing a huge reaction from the crowd.
It was just 21 seconds later that Yip fought Nystrom after being instigated, giving Nashville the first of the two penalties that would put them at 5-on-3 for nearly a minute and a half. When Hornqvist scored, it was all thanks to Weber stepping up and getting mean precisely when it was called for.
- It isn’t often that Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators defense look soft and get bailed out by the offense, but that’s basically what we saw tonight. It was a character win for the Preds, who fell behind twice before coming back for the slump-busting victory – something they haven’t been able to do very often this season.
- The Preds effectively neutralized some of the Stars’ best players. Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr had one assist between them and were a combined −5 on the game. On the other hand, Michael Ryder picked up three assists. It’s probably a good thing Ray Whitney was out (not to mention Kari Lehtonen).
How big a game was this for Roman Josi? His two goals and two assists give him 23 points for his 72-game career, which means he had 17.4 percent of his total NHL production tonight. He’s still got a long way to go on his development path, which is incredibly exciting because he’s already quite good.
- The Predators outshot Dallas 31-24 for the game: 8-6 Preds in the first period, 13-10 Stars in the second, 12-5 Preds in the third, and 1-0 Preds in overtime.
- 10 shots on the power play? Who stole my Nashville Predators and replaced them with this team?
- In all, 10 Preds players picked up points tonight: Josi, Sergei Kostitsyn, Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, Rich Clune, Craig Smith, Mike Fisher, David Legwand, Martin Erat, and Shea Weber.
- This was Nashville’s 23rd straight sellout. Good thing, we’ve got to pay that Shea Weber contract off one way or another.
- The last game this season against the Anaheim Ducks is up next for Nashville. They’ve lost two shootouts so far this season to Anaheim, who had their six-game winning streak snapped tonight by Los Angeles.