The Nashville Predators ranked near the top of the NHL in penalty-kill percentage last season, while the Dallas Stars had one of the league's best overall defenses. Neither club, however, played up to its defensive strengths in its season opener.
After struggling to stop their opponents in season-opening losses, the Predators and Stars look to bounce back as they square off at the Sommet Center in Nashville's home opener Saturday night.
Nashville was third in the NHL against the power play in 2007-08, killing 85.4 percent of penalties en route to its fourth consecutive playoff appearance. The Predators, though, looked rusty on Friday night, when they opened the season by giving up four power-play goals in a 5-2 loss to St. Louis.
Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter scored on the first shot of the game at the 2:03 mark of the first period before the Predators allowed three unanswered goals.
"I thought we had the momentum, and everything just fell apart," Predators coach Barry Trotz said.
Nashville goaltender Dan Ellis, who went 23-10-3 with a 2.34 goals-against average in his breakout 2007-08 season, gave up all five goals Friday while facing 22 shots. Last season, he gave up five goals in a single game twice in 44 games - 37 starts.
"They really changed it up and kept us guessing a little," Ellis said. "We couldn't keep up."
Dallas had its own defensive issues in its opener Friday night. After ranking sixth in the league in scoring defense by allowing only 2.49 goals per game last season, the Stars were lit up in a 5-4 overtime loss to Columbus, hardly the way they expected to start the 2008-09 season after coming within two wins of the Stanley Cup finals last spring.
Dallas took a 2-1 lead into the third period before giving up three straight goals. The Stars responded with consecutive scores in the final four minutes to force overtime, but Rick Nash's shot from the slot with 20 seconds left gave Dallas its second regulation loss in its last 19 games against Columbus.
"We found a way to get back in the game and get a point," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "We'll take the point, that's for sure. But in actual fact, I look at the whole scope of the game. I didn't see enough consistency in our group in how we played, to feel good about the game."
Dallas goaltender Marty Turco, 32-21-6 with a 2.31 GAA last season, allowed five goals on 27 shots in Friday's defeat. He hopes to bounce back against the Predators, historically one of his favorite opponents. The eight-year veteran is 9-5-0 with one tie and a 1.87 GAA in 16 career games against them.
Turco, however, lost both his starts against Nashville in 2007-08 as Dallas went 1-3-0 in the season series.
Ellis was 2-1-0 with a 1.88 GAA in three starts against the Stars and 11-6-2 at the Sommet Center, where the Predators went 23-14-4 last season.