The Nashville Predators vault to the top of the Western Conference standings thanks to some unsung heroes in defeating the Dallas Stars.
The Dallas Stars are traditionally a tough team to beat, especially in American Airlines Arena. The Nashville Predators came into Dallas on the second night of a back to back with their backup goalie in net. It had the makings of a rough night for the Predators, but things ended up being as easy as one could hope.
Juuse Saros is prone to giving up early goals. I recall a few occasions where he gave up goals on his opponent’s first shot, and he at least survives that unblemished tonight. Nick Bonino goes to the box 4 minutes into the game after tripping. Calle Jarnkrok drives the puck down but doesn’t get the short-handed goal. Mattias Ekholm loses his stick but doesn’t seem concerned about it. Stars not getting a lot done on the power play that time. More than half the period goes by without a commercial due to lack of whistle. It’s a nice change of pace…until we get a bunch in a row towards the end of the period. We get some drama between Alexei Emelin & Jamie Benn, which leads to Benn getting called for cross-checking. Emelin annoys people like that.
There’s a scrum at the end of the period. Shockingly, Cody McLeod is involved in this.
The Stars come on strong at the start of the period. Two Nashville Predators players even lose their sticks, but manage to hold the Stars off. Saros’ behind the net play leaves something to be desired. We have a fight with Anthony Bitetto & Curtis McKenzie. Bitetto gets the short end of the stick on this one when he loses his grip. Now both McLeod & Austin Watson want some. Watson gets some of Jamie Oleksiak, but not much. Then McLeod…GETS A GOAL? HE GETS A GOAL!
I have no idea what’s going on here, ladies & gentlemen. I do know Nashville goes up 2-0 at 2:48 into the second & Freddy Gaudreau & Emelin are credited with assists.. Not too long after that, Pontus Aberg finds his way into the scoring column after Calle Jarnkrok makes a delectable pass. That’s it for Bishop with 15:34 left in the second period. Kari Lehtonen takes his spot in-goal for Dallas.
Alexander Radulov hooks Filip Forsberg at 7:18 and it’s only a matter of seconds on the PP before Turris finds the back of the net thanks to a screen from Colton Sissons & assists from Ekholm & Roman Josi. 4-0, and it’s time for Nashville to get fat on Frostys.
Emelin trucks a dude and everything is going Nashville’s way right now. Stars still getting some good chances but Saros is making the stops. Sissons goes to the box with 5:35 left after a hook. That also goes poorly for the Stars, as Watson gets the steal & passes it to Jarnkrok to make it 5-0 with 4:54 left in the second.
Fortunately for Dallas, no more goals are scored in the period. Complete & utter domination by Nashville’s offense.
It takes 1:27 into the third period for Dallas to score their first goal of the evening. Stephen Johns gets help from Benn & Oleksiak. We’ve seen enough Nashville Predators third periods to have some concern here, even with a huge lead. The Stars have a golden opportunity to make it 5-2 but Saros gets five saves in one ridiculous sequence.
P.K. Subban maybe helps Mattias Janmark interfere with Saros & the Predators go on the power play. Roman Josi receives a cheap shot hard into the boards & there’s some chirping going on from any & all Predators. He & Dan Harnhuis get unsportsmanlike penalties. Stars get better chances at some shorties than Nashville does on the power play.
The rest of the game is mostly Nashville killing the clock & Dallas not being able to do much. They do make it 5-2 with 41 seconds left thanks to an Oleksiak shot bouncing off Anthony Bitetto’s skate. No harm no foul though, as it’s a 5-2 final & the Nashville Predators move into first place in the Western Conference.
Steve’s Stars of the Game
Third Star: Pontus Aberg & Cody McLeod
Nice to see two men on opposite sides of the spectrum find their way into the goal column for the first time this season. Aberg is a youngster with a ton of upside that hasn’t quite solidified himself on this level yet. McLeod is probably on his way out of this level after this season, a gentleman known for his not-so-gentle nature on the ice.
Second Star: Calle Jarnkrok
We’ll be talking about Calle a lot the next couple of days heading into the Vegas game. Him vs. James Neal might be a debate until the end of time. Whichever side you’re on, he certainly had himself a night tonight. One short-handed goal, one assist & four blocked shots on the defensive end? Yep, that’ll do.
First Star: Juuse Saros
43 saves is a career record for Pekka Rinne‘s young apprentice. He’s been under the gun this season & tonight was the first night we could really feel good about his performance. Hopefully this gets him going on the right track.
It was a pretty quiet night for most of the Predators’ top players. Filip Forsberg & Viktor Arvidsson were nearly invisible & Craig Smith didn’t score a goal for once. Kyle Turris was on point as usual, but other than him it was a showcase for some unheralded Predators. It’s nice to see that, especially when it results in two points on the road against a division rival.
The Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena Friday night, where they’ll see a new opponent with a familiar face. James Neal returns to Smashville as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights. Will there be a tribute video? Find out on Fox Sports Tennessee, where Predators Live! Pregame kicks off at 6:30 PM CT & game coverage begins at 7:00 PM CT. Audio coverage will be on 102.5 The Game.