The Nashville Predators regained their focus and played a full sixty minute game en route to a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night at the Bridgestone Arena.
After slipping up against Anaheim in the final period and almost squandering a 5-1 lead Thursday night, head coach Barry Trotz made it clear to the team that their play was unacceptable and appeared to regain their attention.
“It almost felt like for a bit that we had won the game against Anaheim but it left a bitter taste in your mouth and you don’t want to finish a game like that,” goaltender Pekka Rinne explained. “We talked about it and coach talked about it and I think we were much better prepared tonight.”
The Predators got two goals from both Mike Fisher and David Legwand while the Stars’ offense came from Alex Goligoski and Brendan Morrow.
It was a relief for Fisher to get on the board as he had not scored a goal since February 27 and only has had three goals in his 20 games as a Predator.
“It felt good to finally get a couple,” Fisher said. “It’s been a tough slide here lately, but it’s good to help out.”
Rinne was solid in net making 28 saves. Kari Lehtonen suffered the loss giving up three goals on 31 shots.
Dallas got on the board first at 8:49 when Goligoski took a cross ice feed from Loui Eriksson and put it past Rinne for a power play goal. Sergei Kostitsyn high sticked Thomas Vincour to give the Stars the man advantage opportunity.
The Preds came back to tie the game 1-1 at 14:26 when Marty Erat passed the puck from behind the net and Lehtonen deflected it to Legwand in the slot. Legwand sent it back and forced it between the post and Lehtonen.
The Predators came out hard in the second period and at 2:33 Patrick Hornqvist passed to Fisher who buried the puck past Lehtonen from the left face off circle.
At 4:07, after a missed call where She Weber was tripped at the blue line, Dallas got a real fluky goal where a deflected puck floated in the air and landed on Rinne’s head and fell behind him into the net. Morrow was credited with the goal.
“I felt it hit the back of my mask and knew right away that it was in,” Rinne said about the second Dallas goal. “Obviously, it was bad luck, but that’s part of the game.”
The Preds came back at 9:57 to go ahead 3-2 on Fisher’s second goal of the evening. Fisher took a pass from Ryan Suter and skated across the crease and backhanded the puck into the net catching Lehtonen completely by surprise.
At 13:59 tensions flared as Shane O’Brien pushed Brenden Morrow who retaliated and plenty of shoving ensued and both were sent to the box with offsetting roughing calls.
After Ryan Suter took a questionable hooking call with two minutes left to put Dallas on the power play, Legwand stopped any hopes of a Stars’ comeback with his empty netter.
Trotz was pleased with wins in back to back games against the two teams chasing them in the standings.
“Arguably, these past two games have been the biggest games of the year,” he said. “They’ve given us a little breathing room, but we’ve sill got to win some more games.
“I give a lot of credit to everybody. They find ways to contribute. If it’s not on the score sheet, they’re blocking shots, being strong on the wall, giving you good energy shifts when the momentum’s starting to swing.”
With the victory, the Predators moved to 92 points and are only a point out of fourth place. They are also only five behind division leading Detroit who they play at home next Saturday night.
The Predators will take Sunday off and then prepare to face the President Cup leading Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night at the Bridgestone Arena.