Stars Rally to Down Preds

The Dallas Stars came from behind with three third period goals to defeat the Nashville Predators 4-2 in front of a raucous crowd at a sold out Bridgestone Arena.┬áDallas got goals from Steve Ott, Loui Eriksson, Krystofer Barch, and the game winner from Mark Fistric, while all the Predators offense was supplied by Colin Wilson’s first two-goal effort in his NHL career.

It was a game where the Predators clearly outplayed the Stars in most statistical categories as they tried to snap a four game losing streak but it didn’t matter as the only statistic that counted was on the scoreboard. Nashville outshot the Stars, 46-25, but still could not break into the win column.

“To me we were really good the first two periods. According to our count, we had 30 scoring chances to their seven and we’re sitting there 1-1,” said a frustrated Barry Trotz after the loss. “Obviously, you get the goal early and go up, 2-1.

“We talk about it all the time, it is all about momentum and that next shift is critical. They made a play through to Eriksson and got it tied up. I thought they were a team hanging on the first two periods and then that second goal gave them a lot of momentum.

“It is obviously very disappointing, but we did so many good things. Other than the response after we got ahead, if we had responded a little better, I think we win the hockey game. To me, that shift turned the game around.”

The Predators seemed to remain competitive midway through the third period until back to back Dallas goals ended the contest for all intents and purposes.

“The second goal was a little deflating but the third goal was really deflating because we had them on the ropes all game,” Trotz noted.

Dallas back-up netminder Andrew Raycroft was outstanding in net, stopping 44 of 46 Predator shots, including many where he was on his own. Pekka Rinne, stopped 21 of 25 Stars shots and was clearly frustrated after the game.

The game got off to an exciting start at 2:09 in the first period when Wade Belak was called for interference on Stephane Robidas. Barch took exception and threw a few fisticuffs with Belak, who ended up with his first penalty minutes of the season.

On the resulting Dallas power play, Raycroft was caught out of the goal and the Predators had two shots on Robidas who was scrambling to cover the net. The Stars had an excellent scoring chance at 9:34 when back to back shots on Rinne were stopped by the slimmest of margins.

Both teams played spirited hockey and had several scoring chances for the remainder of the opening period as the Preds out shot the Stars, 16-8. The Preds continued with recent issues in the face off circle as they only won four draws out of fifteen.

Dallas was the first to get on the board at 4:39 in the second period when Eriksson skated from left to right in front of the Preds’ net and sent a perfect back-handed pass back across to to the left to Ott who had a open net to put the Stars up 1-0. Rinne followed the puck and there was little that he could have done to prevent the goal.

Shane O’Brien and Adam Burish mixed it up in front of the Dallas net at 5:36 and matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to lead to 4-on-4 play. Before those penalties expired Trevor Daley was called for interference on Kevin Klein but the Preds were unable to capitalize on the man advantage.

Play continued at a brisk, aggressive pace through the middle of the second period. More brawling occurred at 17:42 when Ott was called for slashing and he and O’Brien squared off behind the Preds’ net.

The Predators were able to convert on the resulting power play at 19:00 when Wilson picked up a loose puck in front of the Dallas net and lifted it past Raycroft to tie the game, 1-1.

Again, the Predators outshot Dallas by a wide margin to end the second period, 18-7. The Preds improved in the faceoff circle winning 12 of 22 chances.

Before fans settled back into their seats, 32 seconds into the third period, Wilson struck again with his second goal of the game on a breakaway that started on a blocked shot by Jerred Smithson at the far end of the ice.

The Preds could not hold the lead as they got caught behind the puck on a Dallas breakaway at 1:44 when Jamie Benn the puck to Eriksson who put it past Rinne from the slot to tie the game at 2-2.

The Stars retook the lead at 8:18 on an unassisted goal credited to Fistric that may have been tipped by O’Brien prior to reaching the net. At 10:05, Dallas quickly struck again on when Barch picked up a rebound in front of the net and put it past Rinne to make it 4-2 Stars as things deteriorated quickly for the Predators.

Nashville had several more chances down the stretch but could not convert. The Predators out shot the Stars 12-10 in the final period and continued to pound the puck.

“I was just excited to get those two goals,” said Wilson about the team’s performance. “Obviously, then them getting those quick goals was not what we wanted.

“It’s kind of a cliche, but you have to play the full sixty minutes. We didn’t do that tonight. I think we deserved to win those first two periods but just had a couple of lapses in the third.”

Chris Mueller played his first NHL game, playing seven shifts and logging 3:17 in ice time.

“It was a good experience for me, first NHL game, something special, but obviously not the outcome we wanted,” said Mueller

“This one’s done,” stated Trotz. “We’ve got to go on to the next one and get some wins and get out of this slide because all the good work we did the previous weeks goes down the drain a bit. Our effort was tremendous. We had a lot of detail and it was a hard fought hockey game.”

The Predators will practice Wednesday at Centennial and leave on Thursday for Minnesota where they will face the Wild in a 5 p.m. game on New Years Eve. The next home game will be Sunday against Columbus in a special 5 p.m. start at the Bridgestone Arena.

Notes:

The second consecutive sellout crowd and sixth of the season was livelier than has been seen in several weeks. This was the fastest time to six sellouts since the 1999-2000 season

Both the University of Tennessee and North Carolina football teams were in attendance as they wait to face off in the Music City Bowl on Thursday night.

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