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Smith, Grimaldi bring energy, production to Predators in Game 2 victory

Each scores to help tie first-round series with Stars

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Craig Smith stopped for a few moments before twirling his stick and slipping it into his glove like a sword in a sheath after his shot got through Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop.

Smith's goal, his first overtime winner in the NHL, couldn't have come at a better time for the Predators. They defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in Game 2 to tie the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

The series moves to Dallas for Game 3 at American Airlines Center on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN, FS-SW, FS-TN).


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Stars series coverage]


"It was kind of a delayed reaction," Smith said of his celebration. "I didn't see what it hit or how it went in or if it was in. pretty exciting stuff."

Predators forward Austin Watson said, "You love the energy [Smith] brings; he brings it every night. He's always moving his feet, always forechecking. To see him just continue to work like he always does and get rewarded, it was a huge goal."

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm2: Smith wins it in OT for Predators

The Predators were much better from start to finish in Game 2 after a 3-2 loss in Game 1. They had the great scoring opportunities. They outshot the Stars 43-23. And though their power play was unsuccessful (0-for-3), their penalty kill was outstanding (5-for-5).

"I mean, defense wins championships, and most of the time it wins games," Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We have enough guys who can generate offense in here, but when we commit to defense, we're a tough team to play against."

Getting the puck past Bishop, who made 41 saves, was again proving to be difficult. Smith wasn't even sure he had scored five minutes into overtime. Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm's shot from the point hit Stars defenseman Roman Polak, and Smith got the puck and scored from the bottom of the left circle.

"He's been here a long time, has [five] 20-goal seasons under his belt and he's certainly capable of a big goal like that," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "It's nice to see him get on the board and make a dent in the series. He played hard tonight, competed hard on the puck, and it was just a terrific play by that line to bring it into the zone and get it back to the point. It dropped to Craig's feet and he got the shot."

The Predators also got energy and production from Rocco Grimaldi, who scored his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal off a pass from Watson to tie the game 1-1 at 3:56 in the first period. Grimaldi, who missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury, found out he was replacing an ailing Brian Boyle at 11:30 a.m.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm2: Grimaldi scores off feed from Watson

"Basically, I've been waiting my whole life for this," said Grimaldi, who played two playoff games for the Florida Panthers in 2016. "Scoring a goal is obviously important and really cool, but being smart defensively, getting pucks in, bringing energy, using my speed, any of those things I can bring to our team is important."

The Predators got a much-needed victory in Game 2. Were they desperate? Certainly. But playing that type of hockey seemed to bring out the best in them.

"No one in the League can beat us when we play desperate hockey," Subban said. "Last game, we didn't play a full 60 minutes. So technically in the playoffs, when you do that, you don't deserve to win. Today, I felt we tilted the ice. For us, we're going to have to continue to play that way if we're going to have success in this series."

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