They finished it just how they started it.
Eeli Tolvanen recorded his first career, three-point game, and Calle Jarnkrok tallied the winner in the shootout, as the Nashville Predators came back to defeat the Dallas Stars by a 4-3 final on Sunday night at American Airlines Center. The result gives the Preds a 4-3-1 record to conclude their franchise-record, eight-game road-trip, including wins in three of their last four outings.
Nashville began the trip two weeks ago with an identical final score in Dallas, and after six games in between against the Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers, the Preds returned to Texas for one more triumph in the shootout, a perfect exclamation to the longest road trip in club history.
Video: Tolvanen, Jarnkrok and Johansen talk 4-3 shootout win
"We might as well end it as we started it," Jarnkrok said of the trip. "It was a gutsy win tonight. We know that Dallas is a big, strong team, and it was a good job coming back in that game. It's nice to get the two points and get out of here."
Video: Hynes recaps shootout win and long road trip
"Today was a real gut check," Preds Head Coach John Hynes said, "After the 16th day on the road, in the eighth game, and coming into a back-to-back, just really happy with the way that our guys stuck with it. The focus level was something we addressed with our team today. That we need to make sure that today's focus and the intensity level that we have is going to be really important. We [couldn't] be thinking about going home [yet], so a really good stretch for our group. It's nice to get home, nice to get the win tonight and then come back and be ready to go."
The Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period with goals from Rhett Gardner and Radek Faksa that beat Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne, but 30 seconds after the second tally, Ryan Johansen tipped home a Mattias Ekholm shot on the power play to get Nashville on the board.
Video: NSH@DAL: Johansen redirects shot for PPG in 1st
Dallas regained their two-goal lead in the second stanza when Ty Dellandreda converted on a deflection of his own, but Nashville got back to within one once more when Johansen fed Filip Forsberg for a goal that deflected off his skate and behind goaltender Anton Khudobin.
Video: NSH@DAL: Forsberg scores when puck goes off skate
Then, with fewer than six minute to play in regulation, Tolvanen fired a shot from near the blue line that eluded everyone and found twine for his seventh goal of the season and forced overtime.
Video: NSH@DAL: Tolvanen knots the game at 3-3 in the 3rd
That eventually led to a shootout where Johnansen and Jarnkrok scored and Rinne stopped four of five shooters he faced to give the Preds one of the more satisfying wins of the season.
Video: NSH@DAL: Jarnkrok's snipe gives Predators a SO win
"We talked about before the game that it's been an OK trip before that, and we can make it a good trip," Tolvanen said. "That was the mindset we went into that game with, and I think everybody showed up today." "I'm ready to get in bed, I'm exhausted," Johansen quipped. "But we found a way to win some games, get some points on this trip against some great hockey clubs, and overall, we're happy with this trip, especially with all of our guys out of the lineup as everyone knows. But looking forward to getting back home and getting in bed."
A theme of the trip was contributions the Predators received from rookies and other young participants in the lineup with a number of key cogs out due to injury. Other than a blip on Saturday in Florida, Nashville was rather pleased with the efforts they put forth, and some fresh faces had plenty to do with that.
"It says a lot. We're missing a lot of key players, and for all these young guys to step up and compete the way they have and be difference-makers in games, not just working hard - it's been a lot of fun on this trip and fun to watch them," Johansen said. "This was a make-or-break trip for us. We had to find a way to get points and win some games, and then we did that, and we're in a position where we have 24 games left, and if we can keep taking strides forward, we'll put ourselves in a good position at the end of this season. I'm really proud of our group."
Thanks to nine points collected over the past two weeks, the Preds find themselves just four points back of Columbus for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. As always, the group will take things one game at a time, but after 16 days away from home, there's reason for optimism.
Finally, the Predators are coming home, and they're bringing some confidence with them.
"It was a real strong road trip," Hynes said. "We played a lot of good hockey, we had contributions from everyone that was on the trip and every player that was on the trip came and contributed. Some of the younger guys all getting their first games, we had fights, we had really good hockey and found ways to win."
Video: Predators rally for SO win against Stars, 4-3
Forward Rem Pitlick entered the Nashville lineup on Sunday night in favor of Mikael Granlund who missed the contest and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
With their eight-game trip now complete, the Predators will return home to host the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday and Thursday (both at 7 p.m. CT) at Bridgestone Arena before heading to Chicago for a weekend set with the Blackhawks.