Starting strong and actually converting a chance early
Well, "early" is very relative term when it comes to a hockey game, but when you're generally referencing the first period, it will apply in this case.
Nashville spent the first half of the opening period rattling off chance after chance against Stars goaltender Antti Niemi, limiting the time Dallas spent outside of its own offensive zone.
The Stars didn't even get their first shot on net until the first five minutes had elapsed.
Fortunately for the Predators, their early work deep in Dallas' end paid off -- which is one of the few times in the last couple of months that Nashville has come away rewarded after so much pressure to start a game.
The normal script sees Nashville putting on the pressure before allowing an opening marker to fall behind and seemingly never finding a way to recover.
Predators forward Craig Smith collected an errant rebound to make it 1-0, but that wouldn't be nearly enough to take care of the Stars on a cold and wait Monday evening.
"Everything Falls Apart"
The band Dog's Eye View had a fantastic song back in 1995 and the lyrics are pretty much spot on to what happened with Nashville in the second period:
Everything falls apart
Then I get to try to
Put it back together
Everything falls apart
And you can count on
That like you can count on bad Bad weather again
Over the course of 77 seconds early in the second period, Nashville allowed both a short-handed goal and a even-strength marker to see its 1-0 lead evaporate into a 2-1 deficit. That was only the beginning, though.
Shea Weber and Paul Gaustad both effectively had seen enough of the Stars and their aggressive forecheck. Both dropped the gloves with Dallas forwards Antoine Roussel and Vernon Fiddler, respectively, before the teams settled down and tried to play some semblance of a hockey game.
The most intriguing thing about this was how Nashville played after the pair of battling fisticuffs.
With a seeming resurgent intensity, the Predators battled back to tie the game before the third period. Against a team like Dallas, sometimes a fight to boost energy is exactly what you need.
"It's always great when guys step up like that," said Predators forward Filip Forsberg. "[Weber] got the first one and obviously [Gaustad] with that big one too. Those guys are important. It brings a lot of energy back."
Players finding their groove
Craig Smith and Colin Wilson have both been subjected to plenty of criticism over nearly the first five months of the season, and rightfully so. While Wilson has missed a handful of time due to an injury, Smith's performance hasn't been stellar. Smith only has 11 goals and seven assists in 56 games while Wilson has four goals and 12 assists in 39 games.
After great seasons last year to earn new contracts, both have quickly plummeted back down to Earth.
Against one of the league's best teams in Dallas, both players found new grooves and factored into plenty of chances -- and even a goal -- against the Stars.
Smith's opening marker was just the tip of the iceberg, while he easily had one of the better games of his season on Monday night.
"It was good to see Craig get on the scoreboard," said head coach Peter Laviolette. "He was fighting space in front of the net on the rebound and setting up plays. It was good."
Overall, neither has been overly exciting to watch this year with too many "what if" and "nearly had it" plays. As the old saying goes, "If if's and but's were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas."
Well, they haven't been candy and nuts so far, but if this duo finds their second wind on the tail end of the regular season and into the first round of the playoffs it could easily give Nashville a strong offensive boost.
Carter Hutton, Nashville Predators -- Hutton was the only reason Nashville stayed in this game as late as they did. Without his stellar play, it would have easily been a 4-2 or 5-2 finish in favor of Dallas.
Craig Smith, Nashville Predators -- What a game from Smith. As I mentioned above, it was easily his best of the season. Hopefully we can expect more of that here in the future.
Mattias Janmark, Dallas Stars -- Collecting the game-winning goal, Janmark was more the beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time than anything else. However, that's the breaks.