By Amanda DiPaolo
The Nashville Predators played their first of two games within a 24-hour span and beat the Dallas Stars on the strength of a goal scored in the first period to remain the only team in the NHL to have not lost a game in regulation. The Predators move to 4-0-3 as goaltender Pekka Rinne collected his 15th career shutout. Dallas is now 5-2-0.
Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland was in the house for the ceremonial puck drop with Shea Weber and Brenden Morrow. It was the most the home announced crowd of 13 583 had to cheer for all night.
For the third time in seven games, the Predators scored in the first minute of the game. Cal O’Reilly scored his first goal of the season at 42 seconds. Shea Weber blasted the puck from the point. O’Reilly described the goal, his first of the season. “The puck went back to Webs on the point and I just went to the net. The puck went off the post off the goalie and I just whacked at it and it went in.”
With 1 goal and 4 assists, O’Reilly’s offensive capabilities have shown through in the first seven games of the season. “I’m playing with great players and am getting a lot of ice time.” O’Reilly said, explaining his fast start. “The coaches are really giving me an opportunity to play. That’s all you can ask, and then it’s up to you. I feel my confidence is growing every game.”
After one, the Predators were out hit (16-9), not performing well in the faceoff circle (11-5) but outshot the Stars 11-8. Both sides had their chances. With 12:36 left to play, Francis Bouillon intercepted the puck in the neutral zone and walked in alone. His shot was gloved down by Kari Lehtonen. On the other end of the rink, Dallas captain Brenden Morrow had a good scoring chance when Jordin Tootoo took a shot that missed the net and went all the way around to the blueline. Alexander Sulzer was unable to keep it in and the Canadian Olympian was able to get around the Predators defense. Rinne gloved down his shot.
The second and third periods seemed to be all Stars. Dallas outshot the Predators 13-5 int he second period. Despite a Predators shorthanded breakaway by Steve Sullivan, most chances came from Dallas players. In the second period, Rinne was outstanding, somehow stopping Benn’s open net shot with the Stars on the power play in the second. Brenden Morrow had more than one good scoring chance. Rinne made a sprawling save on Loui Eriksson. Brad Richards missed an open net shot and even former Chicago Blackhawk Adam Burrish had an amazing scoring opportunity right in front of the net with no coverage that he was unable to bury.
Rinne really was the star of the game, though he credits the team as a whole for its defensive play. “It’s always a team effort,” Rinne said. “We play a desperate game even though at times we didn’t play probably the most physical game and were turning the pucks over. They have a lot of scoring power but we blocked a lot of shots and played really defensively. It’s a team effort.”
Captain Shea Weber was a little more to the point on Rinne’s play. “We got great goaltending first of all. Peks was unbelievable tonight. He really made some big saves, especially in the second period. We kinda woke up and helped him out but kudos to him.”
Rinne made 30 saves.
When asked about being able to finish out a game without heading into overtime, Rinne said it was something the team talked about. “The last three games we lost in overtime. Everyone was saying we need to get mad. We can’t play like that. We consider ourselves a really good hockey team. We want to win those games. Good hockey teams usually win those one goal games. This was a really big road win.”
The Predators went with 7 defensemen as Teemu Laasko made his season debut with Nashville. Coach Barry Trotz said the decision to sit Sergei Kostitsyn and go with 7 defensemen was because a flu bug was going around the team and they were not sure about one of their defensemen. The 7th defenseman was a precaution so the team wouldn’t be down to 5 defensemen during the game if someone had to stop playing. Though he didn’t say it, reports earlier in the day suggested that Kevin Klein was feeling a little under the weather.
Trotz also said that JP Dumont left the game with a lower body injury. No other details were available. If Nashville is going to replace Dumont with someone from Milwaukee, Linus Klasen would be an obvious choice. In 5 games, the left winger has 5 goals and 1 assist.
Nashville played 5 of its first 6 games at home and now, including tonight’s game in Dallas, will be playing 12 of the next 15 on the road. Sunday afternoon at 5 pm, Nashville visits Tampa Bay. Incidentally, the Lightening are the only other team to have beat the Dallas Stars this season.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. Predators upcoming home games Thursday night when the St. Louis Blues make their second trip to Smashville this season.