After a promising start in which the Nashville Predators took a 1-0 lead and were skating and passing well, numerous penalties sapped Nashville's flow and the Dallas Stars grabbed the opportunity to reel off four unanswered goals en route to a 4-2 defeat of the Predators Monday night at the American Airlines Center. Yanic Perreault had two assists in the loss, setting up goals by Paul Kariya and Mark Eaton, and Tomas Vokoun again contributed rock solid goaltending through two periods to keep the game close.
"We were 1-0 in the first and going along and we take a bunch [of penalties] at the end of the first and a bunch in the second," Predators associate coach Brent Peterson said. "That got us off our game and got them going. That's what happens. We killed them off pretty well--they scored one--but you lose your energy. You lose your momentum."
Nashville opened the scoring just 5:04 into the contest. Kariya carried the puck up the right wing on a two-on-one rush with Perreault, attempted to center the puck, then got it back when it bounced off the skate of defenseman Trevor Daley. With his feet well beyond the goal line but the puck and the blade of his stick still above it, Kariya fired a rising shot from the sharpest of angles and beat Stars goaltender Marty Turco--a fact that had to be confirmed by video replay.
Despite a parade of Predators to the penalty box--and a trio of five-on-three power plays for Dallas--the Stars were held off the scoreboard until Stu Barnes converted a centering feed from Mathias Tjarnqvist for an even-strength tally at 12:26 of the second period. Vokoun stepped up with big saves in the closing minutes of that period on Jussi Jokinen and Bill Guerin, but a hard pass from defenseman Janne Niinimaa to Guerin at the left post was settled by the power forward and swept into the net past Vokoun with less than one second remaining on the clock. The late goal gave Dallas a 2-1 edge going into the second intermission, which was an important development considering the fact that the Stars entered the game with a 19-2-2 record when leading after two.
Brendan Morrow's third consecutive penalty of the night put Dallas a man down 2:26 into the final frame, but miscommunication in the Predators' defensive end resulted in a costly empty net goal from the stick of Niinimaa. The play started with Vokoun leaving his net to stop a puck dumped into the zone by the Stars. Above the goal line in the corner to his right, he lightly slid the puck up ice in the direction of a backtracking Predator. The player simultaneously turned away, though, leaving the puck in no-man's land and prompting Vokoun to race against an onrushing Dallas player, Niklas Hagman. Hagman got there first, skated past the prone goaltender and missed an open net with a shot that rang off the left post. The puck went to the left corner, where Preds d-man Marek Zidlicky sent a failed clearing attempt to Niinimaa along the half-wall. The Finnish blueliner's shot at the open net was on target and beat a still-delayed Vokoun, who could only wave his glove at the passing puck as he returned to the net. The goal gave Dallas a 3-1 lead at 3:25 of the third.
"It was sort of a misplay by everybody," Peterson said. "The whole group didn't communicate very well and it was a goal that really hurt us. We're on the power play and we're only down 2-1 and then we give up that to make it 3-1.... It was really a frustrating goal. It was sort of a gift."
With momentum squarely in their corner, the Stars extended the lead to 4-1 at 6:42 on a goal by captain Mike Modano, who was served a no-look backhand pass by Jussi Jokinen. Nashville got one back at the 11:37 mark, after Perreault was stopped by Turco on a chance at the right side of the Dallas net but took the rebound behind the cage and shoveled it into the slot for a one-timer by defenseman Mark Eaton. The Predators mustered a bit of a rally on the heels of Eaton's goal--his first of the season--but the spark had fizzled with five minutes to go in regulation.
Saturday night the Predators walked away with a relatively easy 6-0 home victory over the Chicago Blackhawks despite being outshot 40-19. Following that game, many in the Predators locker room presaged the scenario that played out Monday night, suggesting that a repeat performance of Saturday's effort in Dallas would yield a much less favorable result. Indeed, the Stars outshot the Predators by an identical 40-19 margin, and the outcome was markedly different.
"It was the same way tonight," Peterson said of the lack of defensive support for Vokoun. "We didn't get pucks out on the wall. We weren't hard on our checks. We weren't strong on the puck. We were just very soft in our defensive zone coverage."
The loss drops Nashville's record to 33-16-6 overall and 12-11-5 on the road. The Predators' two-game trip continues Wednesday night in Detroit, where they will face the Central Division-leading Red Wings in the first of back-to-back games.
Notes: Paul Kariya posted a goal and an assist Monday to extend his point streak to five games. He has one goal and six assists during the streak... Yanic Perreault's two assists Monday extend his point streak to five games as well. He has two goals and seven assists in that span... Martin Erat also reached five games with his point streak after posting an assist against Dallas. He has two goals and three assists since the streak began... In addition to being his first goal of 2005-06, Mark Eaton's third-period tally was his second point of the season. He registered three blocked shots and a +1 rating in the game... Nashville's penalty killers were 10 for 11 against the Stars, and have killed 29 of the last 30 penalties. The Predators were short-handed 11 times in Monday's game--a new franchise record for the most short-handed situations in a road game... Nashville's power play went zero for seven... Predators forward Scott Hartnell got into a first-period scrap with defenseman Stephane Robidas. Both players wear visors, but that didn't stop Hartnell from landing several good shots... Nashville is now 15-8-4 when scoring the first goal, and 19-9-6 when outshot by an opponent... Ryan Suter, Jamie Allison and Vern Fiddler were all healthy scratches for Nashville. Defenseman Shea Weber, who was recalled Monday from Milwaukee (AHL), assumed Suter's spot in the lineup against the more physical Dallas squad... Attendance at American Airlines Center Monday was 18,214.
Video: Watch the game highlights (1:17)
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