The Dallas Stars decided tonight that if to try to beat the Nashville Predators with shots on goal. When that didn’t work out, they tried to use physicality. That didn’t work out too well, either, and the Predators cruised to a 4-0 win thanks to some strong work by Pekka Rinne and contributions from some of the bottom six forwards.
Matt Halischuk got things going midway through the first period with a nifty strip in the neutral zone. He carried the puck into the zone and fed it to Nick Spaling, who put it away for a 1-0 Nashville lead. The score was the same at the first intermission, at which point the Star led 9-8 in shots.
After going 0-for-2 on the power play in the first period, the Preds punished Dallas for Brenden Dillon’s tripping call. Shea Weber scored his fourth goal of the season on a nasty little backhander just 14 seconds into the power play for a 2-0 Nashville lead.
The guaranteed play of the game in every Nashville Predators fan’s eyes came at 9:09. Rich Clune, having served two minutes on a garbage roughing call, burst out of the box with the puck moving toward him. He broke in on net and was hauled down by Jordie Benn, drawing a penalty shot. Clune put it away to make the score 3-0, where it stayed through the end of the second period.
Then, in the third, all hell broke loose on the ice. First Eric Nystrom instigated Ryan Ellis, of all people, into a fight at 13:43. Ellis got a few good shots in before hauling Nystrom down and heading off to laugh with the penalty box attendant about Nystrom’s bizarre choice of a dancing partner.
Then Kari Lehtonen and Stephane Robidas tag-teamed Mike Fisher before Robidas picked a fight with Fish after the whistle. Fisher dropped the gloves and proceeded to mash Robidas’s face. Meanwhile Shea Weber and Bobby Butler got involved in scraps of their own. In all, 56 penalty minutes were handed out in less than a minute of ice time. To wrap it all up with a bow, Gabriel Bourque showed nice hands to finish off the power play and make the score 4-0, where it remained for the rest of the game.
- This was Pekka Rinne’s fifth shutout of the season, putting him two ahead of any other goalie in the NHL. All the Dallas goonery at the end of the game overshadowed the fact that he made some truly incredible saves to keep the Preds ahead in the first and second periods. He has now given up just one goal in his last three
- It was also Pekka’s 10th win of the season – a long overdue milestone given his 24 starts, 2.00 GAA, and .924 save percentage. Nice job by the rest of the Nashville Predators to step up and help him get there tonight.
- What a game for Rich Clune, who added a permanent entry to his career highlight reel with that penalty shot in the second period. He now has as many goals as Martin Erat, Craig Smith, Patric Hornqvist, and Roman Josi, and one more than Sergei Kostitsyn. He also smartly declined Jamie Oleksiak’s invitation to engage in fisticuffs late in the game, earning Oleksiak a misconduct.
In the game preview I wrote that the team needed its veteran leaders to step up. Mike Fisher and Shea Weber did exactly that when Dallas decided it would rather fight than play hockey. I want to find a still of the two of them hanging out with Ryan Ellis in the penalty box, frame it, and hang it on my wall.
- Matt Halischuk’s play in the neutral zone to create that first goal showed he understood the message sent to him when he was assigned to Milwaukee for conditioning. He looked solid all night, which is good news for the team as a whole.
- A total of 80 penalty minutes were doled out throughout the course of this game, almost exclusively because Dallas decided to turn the hockey game into a brawl. If they’re trying to set the tone for a future division rivalry, they’ve definitely shown what kind of games they want to play. The Nashville Predators need to respond by continuing to do exactly what they did tonight: turning away when they can, stepping up when necessary, and scoring plenty of goals.