One night after putting together a dominating, complete-game all-around effort, the Dallas Stars fell flat with 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators Saturday night at the Sommet Center.
The Stars dropped to 1-2-0 on the young season, while the Predators improved to 2-0-0 and have given up just one goal in two games.
It was just their second visit back to Nashville since the memorable events of last March 7, when Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo sucker-punched Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas, knocking him out. Tootoo was suspended five games and Robidas missed seven with a concussion.
Of course, on the ensuing power play, Mike Modano scored career goal number 503 to become the NHL’s all-time US-born goal-scoring leader and was booed, sparking a war of words between the organizations about how the accomplishment wasn’t acknowledged in the building at the time.
On this night, Dallas enforcer Krys Barch engaged Tootoo in a fight early in the first period in retaliation, but as far as Robidas is concerned, the incident is over with, and he’s just happy to put it behind him.
“I have to move on,” Robidas said. “It’s in the past, and I got to look forward. The best way we can answer that is to just beat them in their barn.”
Unfortunately for Dallas, that didn’t happen, as they were outplayed in most facets of the game.
In addition to his fight, Barch scored the Stars’ only goal of the contest late in the third period, the fourth of his career after he netted three last season. Goaltender Mike Smith, making his first appearance in the crease this season, stopped 17 shots in taking the loss.
“You have to be ready and worry about the things you can control,” Barch said. “You have to be prepared when you are called upon. It doesn’t matter who scores, it’s the two points that matter and we didn’t get those. We need to tighten up our game and work hard the next few days to get back on track.”
The Predators continued their stifling defensive play as they nearly registered their second shutout in as many games this season, as new starting netminder Chris Mason sparkled by making 28 saves. David Legwand scored three goals, while Martin Erat picked up three assists for Nashville.
After scoring three power play goals in the first two games, the Stars were unable to muster any in eight attempts against Nashville, including three in the third period. They also squandered a golden opportunity to reduce a 3-0 deficit late in the second period with a 48-second 5-on-3 advantage.
“You cant really blame Smitty,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “A couple more saves would’ve been nice but we didn’t execute well tonight. We couldn’t create chances and we were chasing the game from the start. You have to find ways in the end to win the game and we didn’t do that. Our power play execution was poor and we didn’t have the jump we needed.”
Entering the third period trailing by three goals for the second time in three games this season, Dallas had their first chance to chip away at the deficit just over five minutes into the final frame. Stu Barnes took a nice feed off the left sideboards from Joel Lundqvist and whipped a wrist shot from the high slot, but Mason made the big glove save.
Midway through the period, on their third man-advantage opportunity of the period, Mason made another nice glove snag on Antti Miettinen’s slap shot from the right face-off circle.
Barch finally pierced Mason’s bubble with just 6:46 remaining, as he picked up a long pass just over the Nashville blue line, and raced in on a breakaway. Shifting from backhand to forehand, Barch flipped a short shot over Mason’s pad, ending the Predator goalie’s shutout streak to start the season at 112:48.
About a minute later, Smith made a big save on a Nashville power play off a booming shot from the blue line by Ville Koistinen, who was playing in his first NHL game.
With the Stars pressing for another one, they pulled Smith with about a minute and a half to go, and Nashville’s Martin Gelinas scored into the empty net with 1:14 remaining.
Shortly after the subsequent face-off, Nashville added further insult as Legwand notched his hat trick goal with 58.1 seconds left. Legwand received a pass behind the Dallas defense, cut across the top of the crease and then slid a sharp-angle shot along the ice past the fallen Smith.
“I got outplayed and didn’t make the big saves I needed to make at key times,” Smith said. “We were on the short end of the stick tonight. There were no surprises out there and no excuses either. I needed to make more saves.”
Trailing 1-0 early in the second period, Dallas nearly tied it about three and a half minutes in. Jeff Halpern zipped a pass out of the left corner to Barnes in front of the net, who re-directed it on net, but Mason was there with the pad.
The Predators upped their lead to two on a power play at 5:22, when J.P. Dumont ripped a wicked wrist shot over Smith’s shoulder from the right circle. While Smith lost his stick and took Robidas’ as a temporary replacement, Marek Zidlicky fed Dumont with a crisp cross-ice pass.
Nashville went ahead by three at 9:23 of the second, as Legwand scored his second goal of the night on a 2-on-1 break. With just Mattias Norstrom back, Erat carried into the left circle before hitting Legwand in the high slot with a cross-ice feed, and Legwand one-timed it past the sliding Smith.
Smith came up with a nice stop on Alexander Radulov two minutes later when he re-directed ex-Star Jason Arnott’s deft set-up from the left circle, and then stopped Ryan Suter’s point-blank shot with about six minutes to go in the second.
Dallas began to apply a little more offensive pressure after that, and Modano had a nice attempt with about five minutes left when he blasted a one-timer from the top of the circles, but Mason made the save. The Stars then had their big chance late in the period when Gelinas was whistled for high-sticking Modano, giving Dallas a 48-second 5-on-3 power play, but they were unable to take advantage of it to get back in the game. Modano had the only shot on the advantage when he drilled a long slap shot from the blue line, but Mason made the blocker save.
With the bad taste of last March 7 still lingering, it didn’t take long for the rough stuff to start, as Barch challenged Tootoo and thoroughly outslugged him just 2:44 into the game. Barch even showed some class, holding up and allowing the linesmen to separate them after he gained a clear advantage when he got the jersey pulled over Tootoo’s head.
Robidas was seen skating over to Barch on his way to the penalty box and saying something to him.
“I just thanked him,” Robidas said. “He got a chance to go after him, and he did it, and I just thanked him for that.”
Immediately after the puck dropped again, Nashville enforcer Darcy Hordichuk tried to avenge his teammate by taking on Brad Winchester, and got the better of the Stars winger in their scrap, marking the second fight in as many nights for Winchester.
Smith made a nice save on the game’s first scoring chance a little over four minutes into the contest, turning aside Dumont’s wrist shot from the slot, set up by a pass from Arnott, who is now the Nashville captain, out of the left corner.
The Predators did get on the board first shortly after a Dallas power play expired, as Erat carried the puck around the Stars’ net and slid a quick pass into the crease, where Legwand eluded Jere Lehtinen and Norstrom to re-direct it just inside the post and in.
Dallas didn’t get its first shot until over nine minutes into the period, when Modano drilled a long slap shot that Mason turned aside.
The Stars had their first prime opportunity with 6:15 left in the first, as Halpern nearly capitalized on a glaring giveaway by Mason. After he smothered a dump-in by Barnes, Mason swiped the puck back into the left circle, where Halpern pounced on it and shot towards the half-empty net. The puck ramped up Mason’s stick and appeared headed for the upper far corner when Dumont swatted it out of mid-air and harmlessly into the corner.
With about two minutes remaining, rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen, who had his first two NHL points Friday night against Boston, almost collected his third assist on a beautiful feed from the left sideboards to Miettinen in the slot, who re-directed it on net, but Mason made a nice shoulder save.
Miettinen was robbed again by Mason just 40 seconds later, when he received a nice pass from Jussi Jokinen at the left side of the crease and one-timed a shot that a sliding Mason calmly kicked aside.
The Stars now return to Dallas where they will have three days off to regroup before taking on Los Angeles Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center (7:30 pm, FSN).
- Center Steve Ott earned his first assist of the season, led the Stars with three hits, and was one of just two players on the team (Barch was the other) to register a positive plus/minus rating for the night, + 1.
- Defenseman Philippe Boucher also picked up an assist on the Barch goal, his team-leading third of the season.
- Displaying behavior that some might call classless, Nashville fans booed Modano every time he touched the puck and occasionally heckled him, often following up with, “You suck!”
- Modano did not register a point, so he remains five points behind Phil Housley for the NHL’s all-time American-born points lead. He did tie for the club lead with five shots on goal and was on fire in the face-off circle, winning 11 of 15 draws.
- Miettinen also had five shots on goal for Dallas, starting on a line with Modano and captain Brenden Morrow, while also taking some shifts with the Finnish Line, with Jokinen and Niklas Hagman.
- The Stars, who won the season series 3-1 over Nashville last year, still have a 10-3-1 mark in their last 14 meetings with the Predators.
1 - 0 NSH
2 - 0 NSH
Greg De Vries
3 - 0 NSH
3 - 1 NSH
4 - 1 NSH
5 - 1 NSH
Interference - Goalkeeper