Stars find winning formula vs. Predators
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some teams might have gotten frustrated with a scoreless tie after an opening period in which they outshot their opponent 16-4.
Not the Dallas Stars, at least not according to center Jason Spezza.
“We did some good things to start the game and that gave us confidence,” he said.
Spezza did a very good thing in the third period, snapping a tie with a goal from the slot at 9:15 as Dallas notched a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at sold-out Bridgestone Arena.
Taking a feed in the slot from left wing Antoine Roussel, Spezza swept the puck off the heel of his stick. It caromed off goalie Pekka Rinne and into the net for Spezza’s first marker of the season.
Prior to this game, Spezza was scoreless in the first two games with a plus-minus of minus-four.
“We had a good forecheck going and Roussel threw it in the slot,” Spezza said. “Our line generated a lot of chances.”
In upping their record to 2-1-0, the Stars owned the flow of play, save for stretches of the second period. Coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t happy with the team’s performance in a 6-5 loss Saturday night at Colorado and vowed things would change.
Ruff shook up lines, and one new line in particular seemed to cohere instantly. Spezza, Roussel and Radek Faksa buzzed the Nashville zone continually, combining for six shots on net and five other shots overall. Faksa came within a Rinne skate save of starting the scoring early in the first period.
“The lines now have a couple of workers on every line,” Ruff said. “I thought all the lines were in on some good opportunities and all the lines played well defensively.”
It also helped that Dallas got a solid game from goalie Kari Lehtonen (1-1-0), making his first start of the season. Lehtonen finished with 27 saves, keeping the game even early in the third period when he denied Calle Jarnkrok at the right goalpost.
Lehtonen also came up with a tough stop on Craig Smith’s golden chance from the slot late in the second period, moments before Smith clanged Colin Wilson’s power-play setup off the right goalpost.
“I just had to go out there, stay calm and believe in my work,” Lehtonen said. “The guys came out flying, too, in that first period.”
The Stars would have easily scored two or three goals, maybe more, had Rinne not been at his sharpest in the first period. Besides the save on Faksa, Rinne also denied Jamie Benn on the backhand side at the right goalpost.
But Rinne was helpless to stop Dallas’ initial tally. Johnny Oduya’s point blast was tipped by Curtis McKenzie and then by Adam Cracknell for his second goal of the season at 2:55 of the second period. At that point, the Stars owned a 20-7 advantage in shots on goal.
The Predators (1-2-0) took just 92 seconds to equalize, doing so with their fifth man-advantage marker in three games. Mike Fisher was left uncovered in the slot and he beat Lehtonen with a forehand.
However, Nashville simply couldn’t generate enough puck possession or get to enough pucks against an opponent playing with something to prove.
“We just didn’t get anything going tonight,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said.
Rinne (1-1-0) finished with 35 saves, but Nashville lost its second straight game since a season-opening win over Chicago.
Meanwhile, Dallas now has a template for how to marry its high-scoring attack with a better commitment to defense.
“We just had to play a little more desperate and take a page out of Colorado’s book,” Cracknell said. “We were playing a good team on the other side, but when you do good things, you get rewarded.”
NOTES: Dallas scratched D Patrik Nemeth, RW Jiri Hudler and D Jordie Benn, who had each played in its first two games. ... Nashville D Anthony Bitetto and Miikka Salomaki will miss significant time with upper-body injuries suffered over the weekend. Bitetto is out 4-to-6 weeks and Salomaki will sit out 6-to-8 weeks. ... The Stars gave Ds Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell their first game action of the season on the third defense pairing, while LW Curtis McKenzie replaced Hudler. ... Predators C Cody Bass drew into the lineup in place of Salomaki, his first game action of the season.