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game recap

Predators stay alive for third in Central

Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith each score two goals against Stars

by Sean Shapiro / NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- The Nashville Predators remain in contention for third place in the Central Division after a 7-3 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

Viktor Arvidsson had an NHL career-high four points (two goals, two assists), and Craig Smith had two goals and an assist for Nashville (41-28-12), which trails the St. Louis Blues by one point for third place in the division. The Blues, who defeated the Florida Panthers 6-3, would have secured third if the Predators lost.

 

WATCH: All Predators vs. Stars highlights

 

Nashville and the Calgary Flames are tied for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Each has one game remaining. Calgary holds the first tiebreaker, regulation/overtime wins (ROW), 41-39.

Jason Spezza, Radek Faksa and Jason Dickinson scored in the second period for the Stars (33-37-11).

The Predators scored four goals on 12 shots in the first period.

"I thought we were good right off the bat," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "We were able to get an early goal. That to me can always set the tone of the game, just a good play putting the puck at the net and somebody going at the net. I was happy with the game."

Video: NSH@DAL: Fiala, Arvidsson score 36 seconds apart

Arvidsson scored to put the Predators up 1-0 1:06 into the game when he beat goalie Antti Niemi through the five-hole off a pass from Smith, who made it 2-0 at 13:02 when scored on the rush.

"I think we were ready from the start," Arvidsson said. "From the first drop of the puck, we were playing with speed and attitude, and putting pucks at the net, then we got rewarded."

Niemi was replaced by Kari Lehtonen after he allowed two goals on eight shots.

"Those are two tough goals that went in," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Two goals that our goaltender has got to get for us."

Kevin Fiala made it 3-0 at 18:16 on a wrist shot, and Arvidsson pushed the lead to 4-0 at 18:52 when his shot banked in off Jamie Oleksiak's skate for his 31st goal.

Video: NSH@DAL: Zolnierczyk slams puck past Lehtonen

Harry Zolnierczyk gave Nashville a 5-0 lead 1:06 into the second period.

Spezza beat goalie Juuse Saros with a wrist shot at 2:47 to make it 5-1, and Faksa deflected a Dan Hamhuis shot to make it 5-2 at 10:30.

Dickinson scored on the rebound of a Faksa shot at 12:51 to get Dallas within 5-3.

Defenseman Roman Josi scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 2:33 left in the second to give Nashville a 6-3 lead, and Smith scored his second of the game at 13:52 of the third to make it 7-3.

Saros made 30 saves, and Lehtonen had 21 on 26 shots.

Video: NSH@DAL: Smith beats Niemi with nice solo effort

 

Goal of the game

After Dallas scored three straight goals to get within 5-3, Josi beat Lehtonen with a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle to give the momentum back to Nashville.

Video: NSH@DAL: Josi cranks home one-timer for PPG

 

Saves of the game

With the Stars on the power play, Saros made a save on Spezza from close range at 4:34 of the second period before stopping Cody Eakin on the rebound and covering the puck.

 

Highlight of the game

Arvidsson poked Smith's backhand pass from the bottom of the left circle past Niemi on the rush. It was the 30th goal for Arvidsson, who had scored eight in 64 NHL games entering this season. "It's fun. It was a nice goal to tap in there to get to 30. Just have to keep working and being consistent," he said.

Video: NSH@DAL: Arvidsson tips home opening goal

 
Unsung performance of the game

Nashville defenseman Anthony Bitetto had two assists, a plus-2 rating, two hits and two blocks in 17:16.

Video: NSH@DAL: Smith scores second off fortuitous redirect

 

They said it

"I think everybody in the room is just happy for him. He's truly earned his 30 goals. Coming into the year, not knowing what kind of a year he's going to have, to see it to this point right now is pretty special for him, and everybody's happy for him." -- Predators coach Peter Laviolette on Viktor Arvidsson's breakout season

 

"I thought we started slow. I thought our young guys really got it going in the second period. And we got the big goal with Spezza. I'd like to see a little quicker start. As soon as you get behind the eight ball, it was tough. But we continued to push, we didn't just fold." -- Stars coach Lindy Ruff

 

Video: NSH@DAL: Spezza snipes a wrister over Saros

 

Need to know

Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis and forwards Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson each missed the game with a lower-body injury. … Stars forward Brett Ritchie did not play because of a lower-body injury and will sit out the season finale Saturday. … Dallas forward Justin Dowling left the game after two shifts in the first period with an upper-body injury. He also has been ruled out for Saturday. 

 

What's next

Predators: At the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CITY, FS-TN, NHL.TV)

Stars: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW+, ALT, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Smith, Arvidsson tally twice to lead Preds past Stars

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