It was the veteran stars of the Nashville Predators that showed up in this one to get another road victory over the Dallas Stars, the second time in less than a week.
The win comes after the Predators completely failed to show up for work the game before in a letdown loss to the Anaheim Ducks at home, with Filip Forsberg and Ryan O'Reilly going scoreless.
These two teams have shown in all three matchups that they're evenly-matched and would be an entertaining seven-game series in the playoffs. The Predators haven't won a first round series since 2018.
How it Unfolded: Preds Win 6-3 & have 8-4-0 record vs. Central Division
This game was stuck in a scoreless tie over nine minutes into the second period before Jeremy Lauzon broke through for his fourth goal of the season, and just his 12th goal of his NHL career.
Jake Oettinger returned to the crease for the Stars after missing nearly a month and rallied for 32 saves on four goals surrendered. He was matched up with backup Kevin Lankinen, who had already beaten the Stars on January 6, but only had to make 19 saves to get his sixth win of the season.
The Stars, like they're known to do, didn't go down quietly. They kept responding to make it just a one-goal lead for Nashville, including a power play goal from Matt Duchene with just over six minutes left in regulation.
The Predators' defensive front stepped up after this and clamped down on Dallas' comeback attempt. After the Duchene goal, the Stars wouldn't register another shot on Lankinen, and the Predators would add two empty net goals from Gus Nyquist and Juuso Parssinen.
With their 23rd win of the Andrew Brunette era and just passing the halfway point of 2023-24, the Predators sit with 47 points and remain narrowly clinging on to the top wildcard spot over Edmonton and Seattle who each have 45 points.
Three Standout Players for Nashville Predators
My number one standout player goes to Roman Josi. He hasn't been awful by any mean this season, but also hasn't played up to his elite level that we know he's capable of. Especially on the defensive end.
Josi tallies three assists in this one, and ups his season point total to 35 points. That's seventh in the NHL among defensemen, and also puts him top-10 among defensemen in power play points with 16.
It was also a masterful defensive performance for the entire Predators roster, as Andrew Brunette recognized in his postgame comments, calling it a "20-man effort".
Josi's pairing with Dante Fabbro surrendered just 0.274 Expected Goals Against while on the ice together for 11:49 of ice time. They weren't on the ice for either of Dallas' three goals.
The captain stepped up in this one when his team needed him to. This team desperately needed a big response after the no-show against Anaheim, and Josi led the way like great captains do.
Speaking of captain material, O'Reilly is also worthy of being any NHL's team's captain. He also puts up a three-point effort in this one, including his third period goal to restore a two-goal lead for Nashville.
O'Reilly has already crushed his 30 points he tallied least season in 50 games spanning across time with St. Louis and Toronto. He's up to 38 points in 42 games with the Predators, while also being the main catalyst to the Predators' power play with 18 points.
My final standout for the Predators' 6-3 win over the Stars goes to Filip Forsberg, who just continues to haunt the Stars in the third period. Another clutch goal to put him at 22 for the season.
As you saw in the highlight earlier, Forsberg's goal ties in all three of my standouts from this game. A patient and methodical power play set-up during a crucial point in the game with around 10 minutes left and the Stars down only one goal.
Forsberg, somehow thanks to awful penalty killing by Dallas and Josi freezing the defense, finds himself all alone with an open net and didn't panic with the puck. Too many times we've seen players overthink it when they have an open net and either mishandle the puck or sky it over the goalie to miss the net completely.
Forsberg also gets credit for the game-winning goal, already his sixth of the season. His career high is nine game-winning goals set in 2016-17.
Also have to give some love to Denis Gurianov, playing in his third game with Nashville, registering his first assist of the season while looking to make a lasting impression on coaches to stay in the lineup for good.
Lankinen only faced 22 shots, but was impressive in certain moments in the first period to keep Dallas off the board on seven shots. Dallas added another seven shots on goal in the second period and were held scoreless until the final frame.
Even though it was the empty net variety, Nyquist now has a 10-game point streak which has only been achieved by five other players in Predators history, per NHL Public Relations.