Goals from Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson weren’t enough for the Nashville Predators as they fell 5-2 to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night on the second half of a back-to-back slate.
Despite the lopsided score, the final tally was not reflective of the team's effort, as the Preds outshot, outhit and won the face-off battle against the Stars.
“Our guys played really hard tonight,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We made a couple of mistakes, but our effort under the circumstances, the travel and back-to-back, I thought our guys played real hard.”
Dallas went on their first power play early in the opening frame, but it was the Preds who capitalized when Ellis intercepted a pass at his own blue line and skated the puck to the right face-off circle, blasting a shot over Kari Lehtonen's shoulder to take a 1-0 lead.
Stars Captain Jamie Benn evened the score at 1-1 before the period was out, followed by tallies from Radek Faksa and Jason Spezza, who scored less than a minute apart midway through the second, to give Dallas a 3-1 advantage. Before the middle frame concluded, Arvidsson took a feed from Ryan Johansen on the power play and blasted home his first career man-advantage tally and his eighth of the season to bring the Preds to within one.
Nashville continued to press in the third, hitting a number of posts before Dallas ultimately closed things out.
“We battled until the end, and we generated a lot of chances and hit the post a bunch of times,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “It doesn’t count, but it shows that we still generated a lot. It’s too bad we didn’t get the tying goal, but it’s disappointing. We had two games here to have a chance to clinch the playoff spot and couldn’t do it, so just have to go to Pittsburgh and hopefully get it done over there.”
Having played three games in the last four days, the Preds will get a much needed day of rest on Wednesday before facing the Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday night, with playoff implications continuing to exist.
“The main thing right now is it's right after the game, and we’re not happy with the result, but it’s important to get a big day of rest tomorrow,” Johansen said. “We’ve had a back-to-back, it’s late in the season and we really need to take these days and manage our bodies well, get some good meals and good sleep in us, and just get back to work when we get into Pittsburgh and try and take care of business there.”
Coach Laviolette on managing the back-to-back situation late in the season:
“We have guys out here playing so many minutes right now, so it’s always a little more difficult when you’re coming from behind like we were the last two nights. You’re using your bench more, and you can’t roll the lines and just get a roll to the bench and kill a game or kill a period. You’re chasing the whole game, so some guys took on some minutes. It’s just the way the schedules dealt, everybody deals with it.”
If the Predators defeat the Penguins in any fashion on Thursday, they’ll clinch a postseason berth. If the Colorado Avalanche fall in regulation to the Washington Capitals on Friday, Nashville would also lock up a spot in the playoffs.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis blocked a shot up high in the first period of Monday’s game and did not return with an upper-body injury. Laviolette said postgame that the team will re-evaluate everything on Wednesday.
Paul Gaustad returned to the Preds lineup on Tuesday after missing the previous 10 games with an upper-body injury. Gaustad logged 10:42 of ice time with two shots.
The Predators will head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Thursday night before returning home to host San Jose on Saturday.
Infographic: Stars Outshine Preds