The Southern rivalry between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars lived on, and then some, on Thursday night.
The first period held back and forth play with a few scoring chances managed by each team. The only team that was able to make one of those scoring chances count however was Nashville.
Shea Weber sent a blast from the blue line that made its way through Kari Lehtonen at the 4:33 mark of the opening period to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. Mike Ribeiro and Roman Josi were the helpers on what was Weber’s ninth goal of the season.
Nashville killed off the only penalty of the first period and the Predators held the advantage in the shots on goal category after the first 20 minutes of play by the count of 8-6.
Just moments into the second period Nashville received its first power play chance of the night following an Ales Hemsky hooking penalty. The Predators managed only one shot on net with the man advantage and couldn’t cushion their lead.
Following the penalty the Predators found themselves with a handful of good scoring chances including a slight breakaway by Colin Wilson and company but Lehtonen managed to make the stop on Wilson to keep the Stars within one goal.
The Stars received their second power play of the night moments after killing off the Predators power play chance. During the penalty kill Ryan Ellis tried to make a cut on the ice and his right knee seemed to give out on him. He very slowly made his way to the bench and down the tunnel and did not return.
Just seconds after Nashville killed off the penalty Jason Spezza received a pass from Shawn Horcoff and somehow sent the puck between the near post and Rinne who was hugging the post to tie the game up at one goal a piece with 7:09 remaining in the middle frame.
Nashville would regain the lead less than four minutes later. Miikka Salomaki received a pass from Victor Bartley that lead to a breakaway. Salomaki was stopped on his first attempt but poked home his own rebound for his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.
Just 22 seconds after the Salomaki goal the Predators went to the power play for the second time of the night. The Predators may have had the man advantage but it didn’t seem like it. In the opening minute of the man advantage Nashville could hardly get the puck out of their zone and it nearly cost them. Vernon Fiddler stole the puck and while streaking past the Nashville defensemen he dropped a pass to Jamie Benn who saw an empty net with only Weber in his way. Weber saw the puck the entire way and made the left leg save to keep the puck out of the net.
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This Predators luck ran out however at the end of the period. Trevor Daley sent the puck past Rinne to tie the game with two seconds left in the period. Jamie Benn sent a nice pass to Daley who was positioned on the far post ready to light the lamp.
Nashville and Dallas each recorded seven shots on net in the middle frame.
The third period saw Dallas get their third power play chance of the night under five minutes into the period. The Predators held the Stars to only one shot while successfully killing off the Mattias Ekholm cross checking penalty.
The Predators and Stars would swap chances back and forth before someone found the back of the net. Filip Forsberg sent a shot into the net to give the Preds a 3-2 lead at the 3:45 mark but the goal was reviewed and waived off due to “incidental contact with the goaltender”.
That would be the last bit of drama and the game headed into overtime tied at two.
The overtime would only last 17 seconds. Wilson forced a turnover on the side board in the Dallas zone to start the play and flipped it to Mike Fisher in the slot who couldn’t handle the puck. The puck then trickled to Weber who sent a signature slap shot on net and beat Lehtonen for the second time of the night for the game winner.
With the win the Predators now hold the top spot not only in the Central Division but in the entire league standings. Yes, your Nashville Predators are the best team in hockey right now.
The Predators are back in action Saturday in an afternoon showdown at 1 p.m. CST in Minnesota. The game can be seen on FS-TN.