Nashville Predators 3, Dallas Stars 4: Rusty Return As Preds Fall to Stars

Tolvanen, Duchene, and Trenin score, but Nashville can’t find their groove in loss to Dallas.

The Nashville Predators returned to the ice after the All-Star break to take on the Dallas Stars tonight at American Airlines Center in Texas. Nashville entered the All-Star break with a win over the Vancouver Canucks, while Dallas spent the break with a sour taste in their mouth after a tough-to-swallow loss against the Calgary Flames.  Both teams were eyeballing the critical two points up for grabs in a very competitive Central Division. Nashville was looking to maintain their second-place standing while Dallas hoped to claw their way into a playoff spot.

The Predators were without defensemen Mark Borowiecki (non-COVID-related illness) and Matt Benning (lower-body injury). Ben Harpur and Phil Myers slotted in for the third defensive pairing.

Period One

The game started early with Joe Pavelski committing a slash at :23. The early mistake didn’t cost the Stars as the Preds couldn’t convert the man advantage, but the Predators ran the Stars ragged, cycling line after line for over two minutes in front of Jake Oettinger before the Stars could finally clear the puck.

Jamie Benn took exception to a Yakov Trenin hit on John Klingberg and earned a trip to the sin bin for roughing at 7:26. After review, Trenin was assessed a major penalty, and the referees huddled up to review again but ultimately reduced the Trenin penalty to a minor elbowing call. Play continued four-on-four for less than a minute when Dante Fabbro was called for a hold, and suddenly the Stars were playing four on three. Jason Robertson scored at 8:58 with the man advantage, putting the Stars up 1-0.

The Predators didn’t learn their lesson immediately, as Roman Josi was called for tripping at 9:35, putting the Stars back on the power play. The Stars only enjoyed a minute of power play because Miro Heiskanen was called for tripping, and the game once again went to four on four for forty-nine seconds. Neither team could score on their respective power play or four on four and with seven minutes remaining, the teams returned to five on five play.

The Predators finally found their way onto the scoreboard thanks to a point shot by Eeli Tolvanen at 14:41 to tie the game up.

Five on five play continued through the remainder of the period, but the score remained tied.

Period Two

The second period had hardly begun before Ben Harpur headed to the penalty box for a hooking penalty at 2:27. The Predators’ penalty kill was clogging up any chance the Stars had, but Nashville shot themselves in the foot once again as Michael McCarron was called for a hooking at 3:55, giving Dallas a 5 on 3 for thirty-two seconds. Nashville killed off the two man advantage, Saros tap danced in net to keep the puck out on a netfront flurry, and finally the penalty expired.

Play continued back and forth, but neither team could seem to elevate their game through the first half of the period. Dallas had a nice chance on a three on two, but Klingberg couldn’t find the net. The Predators had some unfortunate giveaways, and then gifted the Stars yet another penalty as Filip Forsberg was called for a delay of game at 14:27. Nashville’s well-worked penalty kill finally broke down as Jason Robertson was able to redirect a shot from the point past Juuse Saros, giving Dallas the 2-1 lead at 16:18.

The Dallas goal lit an immediate fire under Nashville’s Matt Duchene, who headed toward the Dallas net and tapped the puck past Oettinger at 16:36 to tie the game back up.

Unfortunately the mistakes by Nashville continued and a misplayed puck by Luke Kunin led to a breakaway goal by Roope Hintz at 17:59, giving Dallas the lead once again.

With less than ten seconds remaining in a frustrating period for Nashville, Yakov Trenin battled in a netfront scrum to push the puck past Ottinger.  Dallas challenged the goal for the goaltender interference, but the challenge was unsuccessful. The Predators tied the game and finished the period with a power play opportunity.

Period Three

The third period started off much like the first period, with extended offensive zone time and puck possession by the Nashville Predators on their remaining power play time, but the Preds couldn’t convert the early pressure into a score. Instead Dallas took advantage of a turnover, turned it into a two on one, and Luke Glendenning buried the puck past Saros at 3:22.

Things continued to unravel for Nashville after a Dante Fabbro turnover in the defensive zone led to a golden chance for Dallas interrupted only by a trip by Roman Josi at 5:44. The Predators’ penalty kill, which had plenty of practice through the first two periods, held strong for the two minutes.

Five on five play settled into back and forth possessions for each team. Nashville had offensive zone time, but several shots were blocked by Dallas before they could get through to the net. Saros came up with a big point-blank save, keeping the Preds within one goal.

Nashville pulled Juuse Saros with a few minutes remaining, but the Preds struggled to get set up in their offensive zone. Dallas committed a slashing penalty with less than two seconds in the game, but Nashville ran out of time to tie the game and fell to the Stars 4-3.

Three Things:

  1. Sometimes it is difficult to shake off the rust and dust. The players enjoyed their time off for the All-Star break but they seemed to bring some “vacation hangover” to the ice tonight.    Getting back into the groove can be a challenge, but this was next level.
  2. Special teams weren’t very special.  Nashville has been strong on special teams much of this season, but tonight was definitely an exception. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times—there are no snacks in the sin bin. There are a few times when a penalty is necessary, but tonight’s trips to the penalty box weren’t those kind. Nashville also didn’t take advantage of the power play opportunities they were gifted,
  3. Too many too quiet. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Tanner Jeannot—these were names we didn’t hear much throughout this game. Smart passes, strong forechecking, even shots on goal—too many players were too quiet in these areas tonight.