Viktor Arvidsson recorded two goals and four points as the Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars by a 7-3 final on Thursday night at American Airlines Center. The victory gives Nashville 41 wins, 94 points and still gives them a chance at third in the Central Division before the regular season concludes this weekend.
The Preds struck early and often, owning a 5-0 lead at one point, and after the Stars brought it to within two, Nashville buckled down and finished the job.
"We were able to get an early goal," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. "For me, that can always set the tone of a game. Just a good play putting the puck at the net and somebody going to the net. I thought first period was good, but the second period I thought we got a little bit sloppy when it was 4-0. We gave them some opportunities coming back the other way, but then we tightened it up in the third period again. I was happy with the game."
Arvidsson got things started just over a minute into the game when he tallied his 30th goal of the season to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. That goal was then followed by markers from Craig Smith, Kevin Fiala and Arvidsson once more for a 4-0 Nashville advantage after one period of play.
Video: NSH@DAL: Fiala goes top shelf with quick wrister
"We really just came out with a purpose," forward Harry Zolnierczyk said. "We knew we wanted this game, the playoffs are obviously right around the corner and we're trying to put our best foot forward as we enter into that second season. We wanted to make sure we weren't taking anything for granted tonight, and we had a hot start."
The fun continued in the second stanza when Zolnierczyk deposited his second of the season into the cage, but the Stars made it interesting when they scored three unanswered to pull to within two goals. A late 5-on-3 power play gave Roman Josi the chance to rocket home his 12th of the season, however, for a 6-3 lead after 40 minutes.
Smith added his second of the night for good measure in the third and Juuse Saros made 30 saves in total for his 10th win of the season on the way to a high-scoring victory for the club in their penultimate game of the season.
"We're always looking for offense," Laviolette said. "Some nights we get lots of looks and lots of opportunities and some nights they drop and some nights they don't. Tonight it was good, we got going right away."
30 for 30:
Video: NSH@DAL: Arvidsson tips home opening goal
Viktor Arvidsson hit the 30-goal mark, and then surpassed it, all within the first 20 minutes of Thursday's game in Dallas.
Arvidsson tallied Nashville's first and fourth goals in a 7-3 win for his first career 30-goal season. With the achievement, Arvidsson joined Filip Forsberg as the second Preds player to hit 30 this season, the third time in franchise history the team has had a pair of 30-goal scorers in the same season.
"I believed in myself, but it's hard to say you believed you were going to score 30 goals," Arvidsson said. "I believe I can do it, but it's a long road there and you have to work hard."
"He's been lights out," Zolnierczyk said of Arvidsson. "He hasn't slowed down at all, as if you thought he was ever going to slow down. He just kept proving he's capable of scoring 30, and he's done that. That's a huge milestone; 30 goals in this League is tough and he did a great job"
Video: NSH@DAL: Arvidsson nets second off fortunate bounce
Arvidsson finished with four points on the night, good enough to tie Ryan Johansen for the team scoring lead with 61 points. The four-point outing is a career high for Arvidsson, and he's the only Preds player to have registered four points in a single game this season.
"I think everybody in the room is just happy for him," Laviolette said of Arvidsson. "He's truly earned his 30 goals. Coming into the year, not knowing what kind of year he was going to have, to see it to this point right now is pretty special for him and everybody is happy for him."
Video: Smith, Arvidsson tally twice to lead Preds past Stars
Nashville had a number of tweaks to the lineup on Thursday as Ryan Ellis (lower-body), Vernon Fiddler (upper-body), Mike Fisher (lower-body) and Colin Wilson (lower-body) were all absent from the contest. Cody McLeod was also scratched.
With Fisher and Ellis out of the lineup, defenseman Mattias Ekholm served as an alternate captain for the first time in his NHL career. Laviolette had this to say about the appointment: "The way he handles himself on a daily basis, he's absolutely a guy that can lead this team. The way he plays on the ice, the way he practices every day, he's been awesome for us all year long. It was well deserved to wear that."
Forward James Neal returned to the Predators lineup on Thursday after missing four games with an upper-body injury.
Forward PA Parenteau and defenseman Brad Hunt both collected an assist in the win, their first points with the Preds.
The Predators will conclude their regular season schedule on Saturday night in Winnipeg when they face the Jets at 6 p.m. CT. The team will then return home to prepare for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which begin next week. Complete postseason schedules will likely be announced on Sunday evening after the regular season has concluded.