Dallas Stars 3, Nashville Predators 2 (OT): Mattias Janmark Ends Central Division Thriller

An incredible game ended with an odd man rush in overtime.

The Dallas Stars were able to survive long enough to capitalize on one of the Nashville Predators' biggest weaknesses: overtime.

Mattias Janmark potted the OT winner in a game where both teams were leaving everything on the ice. Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg got Nashville on the board while Cody Eakin and Ales Hemsky did the same for Dallas. Carter Hutton made 27 saves on 29 shots, and looked very good in his second consecutive start.

The Preds should be happy that they hung with one of the best teams in the NHL all night, but when you are that close to two points against a division rival you have to take it.

Random Observations

  • In a move that everyone wanted, but no one expected Peter Laviolette to actually make, Carter Hutton started for the Predators tonight. Pekka Rinne has struggled this season, and it was hard to justify not riding the hot hand after his shutout of the Florida Panthers. He played well tonight, and it's hard to fault him on any of the goals he gave up. Hutton even made some spectacular saves like he's prone to do, including several in one sequence on Jamie Benn. The conversation is going to heat up on who to keep in goal. Right now, it's hard to argue Hutton may be the better of the two, but splitting time in net might be the best thing to push Rinne. If he still can't separate himself... well...
  • Not sure what the Predators ate over the weekend, but it seems to be sitting very, very well. Nashville came out firing and had several great chances against Antti Niemi, including a near miss on a breakaway by Filip Forsberg. Perhaps the best was Miikka Salomaki dangling into the zone and shoveling the puck across the ice to Austin Watson. Watson one handed the puck on goal but right into Niemi.
  • For one glorious moment, your pleas and cries were answered. Craig Smith awoke from his hockey coma to deposit a rebound from a Mattias Ekholm point shot. It was Smith's first goal since January 26th against Vancouver eight games ago, and his fourth point in that time.
  • The Stars don't have a particularly effective penalty kill, but they rack up a lot of shorthanded goals. Makes sense: their defense isn't all that great, but they are a great counter attack team that can do damage on the rush. The Predators got a firsthand look at that, when Jamie Benn set up Cody Eakin for Dallas' 10th shorty of the year. That shot was incredible, and there was no way that was getting stopped.
  • And before you could even settle back into your seat, Ales Hemsky gave the Stars the lead. All gold players were scrambling to get control of the puck, Hemsky turned Anthony Bitetto inside out and found himself all alone in front of Hutton. We've seen this movie before.
  • The most articulate of hockey scholars will present evidence that those fights energized the team and caused the team to play better. Between belches of Molson, to be sure. Either way, Forsberg found some open ice in the slot, and Mike Ribeiro forced a turnover that Smith lasered to the Prince. That's not a spot that Filip misses from very often, and he collected his 19th on the season. Solid bit of forechecking all around.
  • The 20 minutes that followed the second period were some of the most intense of Nashville's season. Both teams were getting chances, both goalies were making saves, and the intensity was turned up to 12. Games against these two teams are always physical and make you pull a blanket up to your eyes, but this was something else. Imagine a seven game series between these two. There's a lot of time left in the season, but if things stay the way they are that's exactly what we'll get.
  • 3-on-3 hasn't been kind to Nashville all season, mostly because they play a more passive game it seems. The opposition always has the puck in the Preds' zone, and whenever Nashville does start the offense, it isn't sustained for very long. They had some looks this time out, but not nearly as many as they should have.
  • James Neal tries to split three Dallas Stars by himself, fails, and it starts a breakout the other way. A 3-on-2 turns into a 3-on-1 thanks to Forsberg catching an edge and falling out of the play. Roman Josi was left all by himself to try and fend off three players. We know how this ends. Mattias Jarnmark ends the game.

It's a point against a scoring hot team, and overall the Predators played a solid game. But moral victories don't matter anymore.

OTF's Super Duper Stars of the Game

  • Craig Smith: Mr. Wisconsin has gone back and forth from being invisible to trying really hard but not being able to break through. Great performance by him tonight to get back into the score columns.
  • Carter Hutton: See above. Did everything he needed to in this game, and put some fuel on the goaltending controversy fire.
  • Mattias Janmark: Two points including the overtime winner./

Tweets of the Game

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