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Predators snap road losing streak by beating Stars 4-0

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- For a team that hadn't won away from home in more than a month, the Nashville Predators looked mighty comfortable in the opener of a five-game road trip.

The Predators snapped a 0-5-1 slide on the road by getting goals from Nick Spaling, Shea Weber, Rich Clune and Gabriel Bourque as they beat the Dallas Stars 4-0 on Tuesday night before 15,661 at American Airlines Center.

"It's obviously nice to get that first game right away, get a big win. This is what we needed," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "We scored some timely goals and our penalty kill tonight was real good. A couple big goals and that was the game tonight."

Rinne stopped all 32 shots he faced for his League-leading fifth shutout of the season and 30th of his career. Nashville had last won on the road on Feb. 5 when the Predators beat St. Louis 6-1.

"Second period, he was outstanding, absolutely outstanding, made some huge saves," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Rinne.

Dallas peppered Rinne, who was making his 10th straight start for Nashville, throughout the first half of the opening period, taking eight of the game's first nine shots.

However, the Stars (12-11-2) managed just one shot in the final half of the period while Nashville (11-9-6) had seven and opened the scoring at 12:16 when Spaling scored his first goal in 11 games, firing a wrister from the left circle over the glove of Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen for his fourth of the season.

The play was set up when Matt Halischuk, who was appearing in his first game for Nashville since returning from a conditioning assignment with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League, stole the puck from Dallas rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and fed Spaling.

The Stars put the Predators on the power play for the second time of the game 2:02 into the second period when rookie defenseman Brenden Dillon tripped Scott Hannan in the offensive zone. Weber scored just 14 seconds later, firing the rebound of David Legwand's shot just inside the left post for his first goal in eight games.

Rinne made two of his best stops in the next couple of minutes, nabbing Ray Whitney's wrister from the left circle and making a glove save at the right post on Loui Eriksson's 25-foot wrister.

Clune then made it 3-0 at 9:09 when he beat Lehtonen through the five-hole with a wrister from the slot on a penalty shot for his third goal of the season. Clune, who had finished serving a penalty for roughing just 11 seconds earlier, earned the penalty shot when he was hooked by Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn on a breakaway after gaining possession of the puck near center ice.

It was Nashville's first penalty shot goal since Nov. 9, 2011, when Martin Erat converted one in a 4-2 win at Anaheim.

"With me taking a penalty, if they would have scored, that would have made it 2-1," Clune said. "Fortunately I came out of the box, kind of worked that chance, then capitalized on the penalty shot and maybe kind of broke their backs a little bit."

With 3:17 left before the second intermission, Dallas had another chance at getting on the board when Rinne was pulled away from the net after Whitney made a great pass to Trevor Daley from the left circle. However, Daley, who was on the edge of the right circle, saw his shot deflected and the puck cleared from danger.

"It was just a scramble play. In the second period, I made a couple big saves," Rinne said. "At the time, obviously it helped. It was a big momentum thing for us. You have to be lucky sometimes too. It was a wide open net. He [Daley] put it on the ice and I was able to get it. I was a little bit lucky too."

About the only negative of the night for the Predators was the upper-body injury that kept center Paul Gaustad from returning for the final period.

"Right now, we're just evaluating that. We may fly him back tomorrow. We'll have our doctors look at him and see where we're at there," Trotz said.

Lehtonen stopped 17 of the 21 shots he faced in a losing effort for the Stars.

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan kept his postgame remarks to the media brief. "How they [things] turned out wasn't good. Certainly, we needed to be a little bit better in a bunch of areas," he said.

Bourque flipped home a rebound with 5:02 to play for Nashville's second power-play goal of the night.

Things got heated late in the final period as Nashville's Ryan Ellis and Dallas' Eric Nystrom dropped the gloves with 6:17 left. After Lehtonen took a high stick from Fisher at the right post with about six minutes remaining, the Dallas netminder quickly retaliated with a stick to the back of Fisher's head seconds later. Weber and Dallas' Antoine Roussel then dropped the gloves.

Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas and Fisher each earned five-minute fighting majors while Roussel and Weber received fighting majors and 10-minute misconducts. Nashville's Bobby Butler and Dillon were called for roughing for their roles in the scrum. Oleksiak then was sent to the showers with 2:45 remaining, earning a 10-minute misconduct after trying to start another fight.

The Stars played without both center Jamie Benn (wrist) and captain Brenden Morrow (groin) but Gulutzan did offer an update on both regulars after the loss.

"I don't know," Gulutzan said. "At this point, I'll say 50-50."

It was the first time the Stars had been shut out in 16 games, when Dallas lost 2-0 at Phoenix on Feb. 2.

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