A new franchise record is set in a playoff-type atmosphere as the Nashville Predators get the shutout win over the Dallas Stars.
Where to start with this ninth-straight win by the Nashville Predators? A franchise record and they keep their division lead over Winnipeg at a comfortable six points. It didn’t come easy as the Dallas Stars are clinging to a wildcard spot.
What I’m coming to realize over this nine-game winning streak is just how deep the Predators are. It’s terrorizing some really good teams that they don’t know who to key in on. This win gets Pekka Rinne his 50th career shutout and furthers his case for the Vezina Trophy.
This game felt like a playoff game. Better learn more about these Stars, because it’s likely we see them in the first round of the playoffs. Sometimes that term is used loosely, but it really did feel that way. The fact that it ends up being a low-scoring affair is deceptive. Here’s how it played out.
The penalty extravaganza started early in this one. Mike Fisher, in his return to Bridgestrone Arena, probably saves a penalty. The first of many misses on the power play plagues the Stars to keep it scoreless.
Both teams got their fair share of scoring chances to break the tie early on. Some credit is due to Alexei Emelin for his physical and hard-working play in the opening period. He matched what Dallas was bringing.
Kevin Fiala gets the best scoring chance for the Predators in the first period. The post keeps him from scoring on three Stars players. The first intermission has both teams stuck at zero, but not for lack of opportunities.
The Predators start finding their groove a bit in the second period, only to be stymied by Kari Lehtonen. If he’s not locked in, the Predators tally a couple of goals before the third period arrives. He was frustrating as the Predators were getting plenty of scoring chances, most notably a few from the JoFA line.
The aggression picks up in this period as well, mostly from Dallas. You can tell this team is desperate to hold onto their wildcard spot. They played like it, and often made life difficult for a high-scoring Predators team.
The Stars had their power play opportunities, but the Predators kept killing them off. I was waiting on Dallas to connect on one of them, and get that coveted first goal. It never happened on their power play thanks to some great saves by Rinne, and some good play in front of him.
Somehow the Predators are kept off the board as the second period ends. They threw everything at Lehtonen, including a puck that comes up inches shy of crossing the line.
Call me a non-believer, but with the game scoreless I was growing more fearful that Dallas was going to sneak out with a win to keep the Predators from setting a new franchise record. However, the third period largely belonged to the Predators. So much pressure in Dallas’ zone, and it finally pays off with Ryan Hartman’s goal.
Hartman scores this goal on a backhand, and top shelf over Lehtonen. It took this pretty of a goal to beat Lehtonen in this game. Perhaps one of the prettiest goals of the season. His second in a Predators uniform. Here’s a look at it courtesy of Fox Sports Tennessee:
This is when the Predators clamped down and kept Dallas’ scoring chances to a minimum. To end this one in fitting fashion, John Klingberg trips on his own goal to give Nick Bonino the easy empty-netter. Klingberg throwing his stick against the boards in disgust makes the win even sweeter.
Chad’s Three Stars
Third Star: Kari Lehtonen
He’s the only reason the Stars can say they took the Predators to the brink. If he’s slightly less spectacular, the Predators end up tallying three or four goals in this one. He ends up stopping 33 of 34 shots.
Second Star: Ryan Hartman
His tenth goal of the season and his second as a member of the Nashville Predators. A pinpoint precision goal that breaks a stalemate. This game might end up in overtime without that beauty.
First Star: Pekka Rinne
Rinne is now tied for tops in the NHL with his seventh shutout of the season. His 50th of his storied career. He has to be the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy now, right?