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Gaustad helps Predators get past Stars

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Paul Gaustad's greatest value to the Nashville Predators is usually in the faceoff circle. Gaustad contributed in nearly every area Saturday, with a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and leading the way offensively.

Nashville won its second straight to start the season, defeating the Dallas Stars 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena.

Gaustad scored the game-winning goal, picked up an assist, got in a fight and won 69 percent of his faceoffs.

"It was great, stepping up with the fight to start, and then a big goal and an assist," Predators captain Shea Weber said. "It's a great effort from him, and we expect effort from him and definitely like it."

Antoine Roussel scored for the Stars in the first period after Predators forward James Neal turned over the puck at the Nashville blue line. Roussel took a pass from Trevor Daley and was able to beat Pekka Rinne on the short side at 7:14.

Shortly after the goal, Gaustad fought Vernon Fiddler in an attempt to bring some life to the Predators, who looked out-of-sync.

"I respect the way he plays but sometimes you just get into things in games, and I decided that was the time for that to happen," Gaustad said.

Dallas had several chances in the second period to add to its lead but wasn't able to capitalize. The Stars generated traffic toward Rinne early in the second period but he was able to find the puck. He finished with 17 saves.

The Stars held the lead until 41 seconds remained in the second period, when Weber scored his second goal of the season. He fired a wrist shot from the point that found its way through traffic and beat Dallas goaltender Anders Lindback through the five-hole. Weber took the pass from Filip Forsberg, who got his third assist of the season.

Nashville took the lead in the third period when Gaustad converted a wraparound at 8:33, and then extended its lead 1:21 later when Eric Nystrom took a pass from Gaustad and fired a backhand past Lindback. Roman Josi scored an empty-net goal.

Gaustad was just patient enough to outmaneuver Lindback and score.

"[Taylor Beck] did a good job of getting that puck to me with two guys on him, and I just tried to wait it out as much as possible and was just able to jam it in," Gaustad said.

His linemate Nystrom had one goal and two assists against his former team.

"He's embraced that leadership role here and that shows on and off the ice," Gaustad said. "I think he's one of those guys that can do a little bit of everything, and him and I worked during camp to build more chemistry. Hopefully we can keep things going."

Beck replaced Rich Clune on that line and added some offensive ability, making a key play to set up Gaustad's game-winning goal.

"I know for myself playing with Nystrom and Gaustad, we got the puck did and we had a lot of success down there taking the puck to the net," Beck said. "We could've had a couple more. If we keep playing the way we are, we should be OK."

Lindback made 29 saves in his Stars debut, playing against his former team.

"I thought they came hard all game," Lindback said. "They forechecked hard with two guys, and they wore us out there I thought. When they got that 2-1 goal and then 3-1 right away, it's crazy momentum for them. They built off it and played the game really well."

Dallas, which lost its season opener Thursday to the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout, plays at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Nashville plays host to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, its third consecutive home game to open the season.

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