The Nashville Predators took on division rival Dallas Stars at the Bridgestone Arena in a game that the Predators needed to move up in the standings. Defeating the Stars would allow the Predators to leapfrog them in the West.
So obviously, this game was important for the Predators, and a good start was essential.
That apparent good start, a goal off the stick of Shea Weber was negated by a goaltender interference penalty on David Legwand.
On the ensuing power play, Cody Eakin beat Carter Hutton to give the Stars a 1-0 lead at 4:45 of the first period.
What could have been a deflating event seemed to strengthen the resolve of the Predators, as they stepped up their physical play and tallied the next 4 goals on the way to an important 4-1 win.
Nick Spaling opened the scoring for the Predators at 11:35 of the first period as he went to the slot and gathered in a rebound of a Roman Josi shot and whipped it past Kari Lehtonen to tie the game.
The Predators made it 2-1 at 17:16 of the first period off a wrist shot from Shea Weber that beat Lehtonen through traffic to the stick side.
Throughout much of the second period, the game was back and forth with both teams trying to create scoring chances and both netminders coming up with good saves. That changed in the final minute of the period as Roman Josi beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot from the face off circle to give the Predators a 3-1 lead at 19:28.
In the third period, the Stars out shot the Predators 19-3. One of those three shots was a goal from Mike Fisher that was set up by the hustle of Colin Wilson. He beat a Stars defender in a race to the puck and threw a drop pass from the corner onto the stick of Fisher. Fisher blasted a shot past Lehtonen at 3:46 of the period for a 4-1 lead.
The rest of the period, the Predators were content to play defense and limit quality scoring chances by the Stars.
They were successful and the Predators captured their third win in the last 4 games.
•Roman Josi is certainly smooth carrying the puck and knows when to carry it deep in the offensive zone. Josi is playing with a high level of confidence and proficiency and the team has benefited as his game continues to blossom. With the goal tonight, Josi set a career high for goals (6) and points (20).
•Carter Hutton was superb tonight. He tracked the puck well and came up with some very good saves on the Stars scoring chances. Hutton stopped 35 of 36 shots and looked poised in the crease.
•Kevin Klein went full beast mode on Antoine Roussel in a second period fight. Roussel challenged Klein, who obliged and proceeded to throw some bombs and pummel Roussel. It was interesting to see Eric Nystrom skating in close to the scrap and yelling encouragement to Klein.
•The Predators had two goals waved off in the first period. The first on the aforementioned Legwand interference penalty and the second after it appeared that Rich Clune had poked the puck over the goal line in a goal mouth scramble. The officials ruled they had blown the whistle before the puck crossed the line.
•This was a good comeback win for the Predators. Normally, when the opponent scores first, it spells trouble for the Predators. With this win tonight, the Predators are now 5-20-3 when the opponent scores first.
•The game turned midway of the first period when the Predators upped their physical play. They did a good job of taking the body and making the Stars play a very physical game. As the game wore on and the hitting continued, the Stars seemed to wilt.
•7 of the last 15 goals the Predators have scored have come from defensemen.
•Dallas has now lost 9 of their last 10 games.
The Predators will embark on a Western Canada swing that will show where this team is in terms of getting back into the playoff race.
Play like you did tonight, boys, and you will become a factor again.
My three stars:
1. Carter Hutton
2. Roman Josi
3. Eric Nystrom
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.