American Airlines Arena has been the Predators own little House of Horrors, with the Preds winning only 4 times in their last twenty visits to the home of the Dallas Stars. Last night, the Predators claimed a 3-2 shootout win in the season opener for both teams. The Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:48 in to the game on a power play goal by former Star Jason Arnott, as the Preds captain shoveled the puck past Marty Turco. Steve Sullivan slipped a puck past Turco at the 4:47 mark of the second period, and the Predators appeared well on the way to exorcising the demons that have haunted them in this venue.
As so often happens in the AAA, things never come easy. The Stars James Neal poked in a goal off a rebound with 9.4 seconds left in the second to make it 2-1 going in to the third period. With Ben Guite in the box for a high sticking penalty, Preds goalie Dan Ellis attempted to clear the puck down the center of the ice. James Neal intercepted the clearing attempt and rifled a wrister past Ellis to tie the score at 3:45 in the third. The game remained tied for the remainder of regulation and through the overtime. In the shootout, Mike Ribiero put a puck past Ellis to put the Stars up 1-0. Facing a score or go home situation, David Legwand responded with a score for the Predators. Rookie Mike Santorelli of the Predators fired a five hole shot past a surprised Marty Turco for the eventual game winner. Dan Ellis stoned Louie Erikson to seal the win for the Preds.
Coach Barry Trotz chose to start Dan Ellis over Pekka Rinne, and many questioned this decision as Rinne was assumed to be the starter. However, Ellis, who once played in the Stars system, has played very well against his former team and was solid in the net. Except for the egregious turnover, Ellis was stellar in net, turning away 38 of 40 shots and looking very confident in the shootout. I still don’t believe there is a goalie controversy in Nashville, as Rinne should get the bulk of the starts. The Predators are in good stead with both these goalies, as each is a quality goalie who can carry the load if called upon.
There was a scary moment as J.P. Dumont of the Predators was slammed into the boards head first on a hit by Dallas defense man Stephane Robidas in the second period. The hit appeared to be close to being a head shot by Robidas, who led into Dumont with his forearm. No penalty was called on the play, but Dumont lay motionless on the ice for several minutes before finally getting to his feet and skating to the bench. He went to the locker room and did not play the rest of the game. Word is that he was stung by the hit and was being held out as a precaution. He is expected to be able to return to the line up for the Preds next game on Thursday against Colorado.
One of the questions about this team was if the young players for the Preds could make the jump to productive play at the NHL level. Patric Hornqvist stepped into Dumont’s position on the first line with Arnott and Steve Sullivan and played well. Rookie Mike Santorelli played wing on the second line and had a solid game and scored the game winner in the shoot out. Additionally, new addition Francis Buillon had a strong game on the blue line for the Preds.
A troubling aspect of this game was the fact that the Predators went nearly 17 minutes from late in the second period to mid-way of the third period without a shot on goal. This team has got to throw pucks at the net and they have to get the dirty goals to be successful. A shot drought of this magnitude does not bode well for this team. For the game, the Stars out shot the Predators 40-26.
A goodfirst win- a good road win- in an arena that has been nightmarish for this team. They have to build on this to continue to have success. Winning is a process that has to be learned anew each season. The Preds have passed their first lesson. Time to build on this success.
Filed Under: Nashville Predators
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.