The Dallas Stars had lost both of their previous games to the Nashville Predators this season, back when the Preds were still considered at least a marginal playoff contender and the Stars appeared to be out of the picture entirely. Things have gone differently for the two teams since their last meeting and the difference was on display tonight as the Stars handed the Preds a 5-2 loss.
The game was never particularly close. Dallas scored just 6:04 into the game on an Erik Cole slap shot to take a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later Craig Smith took a penalty for tripping Aaron Rome and Ray Whitney converted on the power play for his 10th goal of the season and 2-0 lead. Taylor Beck did manage his third NHL goal on a weird play at 18:42 to make it 2-1 going into intermission, but Dallas scored again at 2:28 of the second period to move ahead 3-1.
The Stars didn’t exactly run the game the rest of the way, but the Preds were ineffective and never presented much threat. With that the Nashville Predators’ limp to the finish line continued apace. They might just snag a top-five draft pick after all.
- Chris Mason gave up five goals on 18 shots tonight. Think maybe the guy might play a little better late in the season if he’d been given a chance to keep fresh every now and then along the way?
- Nashville actually outshot Dallas 28-18 on the night, but Dallas converted early and often. The Stars scored twice on five shots in the first period, twice on six shots in the second, and once on seven shots in the third.
- 22-year-old Alex Chiasson put two goals past Mason tonight, giving him five in his first four NHL games. Talk about an auspicious start.
- The goal Bobby Butler scored in the third period to make the score 5-2 was quite a beauty. He entered the zone the way so many opposing forwards have done against Nashville this year: completely untouched with his choice of plays. After realizing he had as much time as he wanted, he simply decided to put the puck away top-shelf across Richard Bachman’s body. Butler has been forechecking hard the last few games and had done so again tonight, so it was nice to see him pick up some kind of reward. I really think he’s going to earn himself at least a one-year contract at the end of this season.
- What was up with the hit that got Sergei Kostitsyn tossed late in the third period? SK74 laid an uncharacteristic hard hit dead center in Mark Fraser’s back and crumpled him against the boards. It was a five-minute major and a game misconduct for Sergei, who’s not usually very physical out there. If not for his self-called line change earlier this season, getting tossed from a meaningless game over a bad hit would easily qualify as his lowest moment of the year.
- Rich Clune fought Antoine Roussel tonight. You might remember Roussel as the young buck who thought taking on Shea Weber during a line brawl last time these teams met was a good idea.
- The Nashville Predators take Saturday off before hosting the Detroit Red Wings at home on Sunday evening. Filip Forsberg is expected to skate with the team that morning but won’t make his NHL debut until the following night at home against the Vancouver Canucks.
- As for the Stars, they moved ahead of Columbus and Phoenix into ninth place in the Western Conference with the win tonight. They weren’t lights-out against Nashville, but there offense was and that was good enough to win. With nine games left the Stars should stand a good chance of fighting for a playoff spot all the way down to the wire.