Tonight the Nashville Predators took on the Dallas Stars for their first matchup of the 2021-22 season. With no love lost between the Central Division rivals, fans anticipated a physical, high-energy confrontation in Texas.
After a brief rest day in Nashville, the Predators headed to Dallas with a slightly tweaked roster and a need to bounce back after a disappointing overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks over the weekend. Matthieu Oliver and Michael McCarron joined the team from Milwaukee, and Olivier reunited with the OG Herd Line of Sissons and Trenin, while early season breakout star Tanner Jeannot joined Ryan Johansen and Philip Tomasino in an intriguing line combination. Juuse Saros took his place in net.
Dallas planned to get their game back on track tonight after a frustrating 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday. Dallas fans were hoping points leader Miro Heiskanen and goal leader Tyler Seguin would have strong performances in this rivalry matchup. Braden Holtby, who sat out the Vancouver game, returned in net against the Predators.
With a history of bad blood and two teams needing bounce-back wins, how would this game shake out? Let’s take a look.
Luke Kunin, Mikael Granlund, and Matt Duchene circled up for puck drop. It was clear from the get go that this wold be a physical, intense game as Jamie Benn and Tanner Jeannot “swapped war stories” against the boards briefly. Play went back and forth, but Nashville gained a man advantage when Jamie Benn was called for a high stick at 4:54. Dallas has struggled on the penalty kill, but the Stars were able to thwart Nashville’s attempts to set up in the offensive zone.
Fans sitting rink side got many close-up looks at players as bodies bounced off the glass like bumper cars in the first half of the period. Hits far outnumbered shot attempts. There wasn’t much space on the ice for either team to open the game up, and scoring chances were few and far between. The Predators had a good look on a pass from Duchene to Kunin net front, but Holtby refused to budge. The Stars had an extended offensive push, but Juuse Saros was able to right the ship until Phil Tomasino could take the puck down to the other end.
The high-energy pace didn’t let up, but Tanner Jeannot and Ryan Johansen rode the wave on a frantic two-on-several, and Johansen found the back of the net at 19:08. The period ended with the Predators in the lead 1-0. Everyone, including fans, took 20 to catch their breath.
The second period started off at a slightly less chaotic pace. The Predators had longer periods of offensive pressure, but weren’t able to capitalize or set up offense. Tanner Jeannot decided he was tired of waiting around and streaked up the side of the rink to put the puck past Holtby for the Predators’ second goal of the game at 4:51.
The teams exchanged chances—the Predators with time in the the offensive zone and the Stars with a contested 2-on-1 chance Juuse Saros was having no part of. The Stars benefited from an interference call at 9:16 on Alexandre Carrier, and the Stars headed on the power play. The Predators kept the pressure on, and the Stars were only able to get one shot on net, which was calmly and cleanly handled by Saros.
Luke Kunin’s hassling of Haskinen along the boards earned him two minutes in the sin bin to rethink his life choices while the Stars headed back on the power play at 12:05. The penalty cost the Predators something perhaps more valuable than a goal—Alexandre Carrier went down after taking a puck to the neck/head area. Carrier was helped off the ice and went down the tunnel. The Stars were able to keep the puck in their offensive zone for much of the remaining two minutes, but Juuse Saros handled the three shots on net with ease. Luke Kunin returned from the time out box with the Stars unable to capitalize on the man advantage.
The Stars controlled the puck more in the second half of the period between the two power plays and some extended zone time. There was a scare for Saros as the puck came up and over his head from behind the net, but a strong Preds defensive presence in front of Saros prevented a goal-tastrophe.
A moment of panic for the Predators turned to a minute of magic as a two on one for the Stars turned into a three on one for Nashville and Matt Duchene sent the puck past Holtby to make it 3-0 at 17:36.
The Stars answered back a mere :15 later with a goal by Roope Hintz. There was a brief meeting of the official minds to confirm that there wasn’t an illegal hand pass by the Stars, but since Hintz hand passed it to himself the goal stood. The second period ended with the Predators up 3-1.
After giving Dallas more offensive opportunities in the second period, the Predators needed to tighten up defensively in the third and would be forced to do so without defender Alexandre Carrier, who didn’t return to the bench after his second-period injury.
A moment of panic came for the Predators as the Stars sent a stretch pass onto the tape of Michael Raffl for a breakaway chance. Juuse Saros stopped both the breakaway shot and a subsequent try off a rebound by Raffl.
Play picked up in pace but not production until the Stars gained a man advantage when Roman Josi was called for a hold at 8:56. It took the Stars half of the power play time to get set up in the offensive zone, and it looked like the Predators would be able to hold them off, but a low pass to Miro Haskinen backdoor resulted in a goal for the Stars at 10:43, closing the goal gap to just one.
The Predators needed to regroup and prevent the Stars from gaining momentum from the power play goal, and the guys in gold battled in the offensive zone and at the boards to keep pressure on. At one point, Juuse Saros had to use all of his fun size to prevent a wonky redirect from tying the game.
McCarron and Radulov exchanged favorite restaurant recommendations during a brief and close talking tête-à-tête, and the temperature between the teams rose steadily as time wound down in the third. The Stars pressured, the Predators protected.
With two minutes remaining, Holtby headed to the bench and the Stars brought on their extra attacker. Dallas set up in the zone, and an exhausted five Predators held off the Stars until finally Colton Sissons gathered up the puck, sent it sailing into the empty net, and then went and took a well earned rest on the bench.
The game ended with a hard-fought Predators victory over the Dallas Stars, 4-2.
- Matt Duchene shows no signs of cooling off after a hot start to the season. Whether it was off season work or being in a good mental space or Mercury in retrograde, the bottom line is Matt Duchene is showing everyone what David Poile saw in him when he signed Dutchy. If he can stay healthy, this is going to be a fun season for Duchene fans.
- Tanner Jeannot is an absolute beast. Jeannot’s physical play is impressive on its own, but paired with his prolific offensive production...well, it is interesting that more people in NHL circles aren’t talking about the player Ryan Johansen referred to tonight as a “giant horse”.
- This is a big win with a concerning loss. This was a strong performance by everyone in gold on the ice tonight, but losing Alexandre Carrier—a player who has proven his value to the team early and often this season—is a serious concern for the Predators going into tomorrow’s game against the St. Louis Blues.