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Preds recapture winning ways vs. Stars

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Photo by John Russell
Jason Arnott celebrates one of Kimmo Timonen's two goals as the Predators knocked off Arnott's former team, the Dallas Stars, 3-2 Saturday night.

The Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2 Saturday night at Nashville Arena. Predators captain Kimmo Timonen scored back-to-back goals to break open a 1-1 game. Jordin Tootoo opened the scoring for Nashville 9:15 into the second period but Mike Modano tied it up at 1-1 with a power-play tally less than two minutes later. Modano scored his second of the night--again on the power play--at 17:08 of the third to make it a tight finish. Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun stopped 34 or 36 shots in a strong outing.

With the win, the Predators snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in six attempts. Nashville's record improves to 47-20-6 for the season and 26-6-4 at home. The victory also propelled the Predators back into the top spot in the NHL as they became the first team to reach the 100-point milestone in the league standings this season.

The game remained scoreless through the first period and a half until Tootoo lit the lamp at 9:15 of the second. Ramzi Abid fired a backhander on Stars goaltender Marty Turco from the left face-off circle and Turco inadvertently poked the rebound out to Tootoo in the left corner. The feisty 5'9", 194-pound winger released a quick wrist shot that sailed past Turco to make it 1-0.

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Less than a minute later, Abid was whistled for tripping, setting the stage for the first of Modano's two power-play goals of the game. Dallas found Modano on a breakout and he carried the puck up the left wing with a step on the defense. Modano's shot from the left circle face-off dot in Nashville's zone caromed in off the inside of Vokoun's left leg pad to tie the game at 1-1 at 10:54.

The tie didn't last long, as Stars forward Niklas Hagman was sent to the penalty box for a stick hold at 11:18. Nashville capitalized on the manpower advantage just 15 seconds later. Peter Forsberg, who returned to the lineup Saturday after missing six games with an upper body injury, held the puck on the left side before threading a beautiful pass across the width of the ice to Timonen, who pinched deep for the one-timer opportunity. Turco could not move to the right side fast enough to deny Timonen's shot, allowing the Predators to recapture the lead at 2-1.

Paul Kariya nearly made it 3-1 for Nashville near the 14:10 mark. After a big save by Vokoun at the defensive end, Ryan Suter sprung Kariya on a breakaway with a lengthy up-ice pass. Turco stopped Kariya' s initial shot with his right pad but the goalie couldn't control the rebound and was off-balance when Kariya picked up the loose puck below the left circle. Kariya fired a quick backhander in an attempt to beat Turco before he recovered, but the sharp-angle shot was just wide and hit the outside of the net.

Predators head coach Barry Trotz, postgame press conference, March 17, 2007 (6:13)

Forsberg turned over a clearing attempt with two minutes left in the second period and Ladislav Nagy and Mike Ribeiro nearly capitalized to tie the score. Vokoun made a big stop there, and Timonen struck for his second tally of the period with 7.3 seconds left to open a 3-1 lead. Determination by J.P. Dumont, Dan Hamhuis and Jason Arnott maintained possession after an up-ice rush brought the puck into the zone. After a couple near misses, the unit worked the puck around the perimeter of Dallas' scrambling defense. Dumont sent the puck from the left wall back to Hamhuis, who made a nice lateral play inside the blue line to keep the puck onside and away from a pressing defender. As he neared the middle of the blue like, Hamhuis passed to Timonen at the right point for a sinking shot that crossed up Turco.

Vokoun came up especially big for the home side during the third period and Nashville's penalty killers dug deep midway through the period to squash a pivotal 5-on-3 Stars power play that lasted 1:16. Vokoun made saves on Ribeiro and Jere Lehtinen on the doorstep and stopped Antti Miettinen on a one-timer in the slot to emerge from the Dallas' power play unscathed.

With just under four minutes remaining in the game, Tootoo delivered a big hit on Modano while forechecking, knocking both players to the ice in Dallas' zone. Defenseman Stephane Robidas, who was on his way out of the zone during the Stars' breakout, turned to track down Tootoo after seeing the collision. Tootoo, rising to his skates and facing the boards, anticipated a reaction from the All Star's teammates and spun to his left to face any oncomers. As he did, he raised his right arm and swung his gloved hand toward the on-rushing Robidas. The punch connected squarely, sending an apparently knocked-out Robidas to the ice. The Dallas defenseman lay motionless on the ice for several minutes and was attended to by teammates and trainers. Robidas eventually left the ice on a stretcher and was taken to an area hospital.

Robidas was penalized two minutes for charging while Tootoo received a double-minor for roughing. Modano got a bit of revenge at 17:08, cashing in on the power-play after taking a nice backhand pass from Lethinen. The goal, Modano's 18th of the season, put him ahead of Joey Mullen for the top spot on the all-time list of goals scored by an American-born player. The Livonia, Mich. native tallied goals No. 502 and 503 in the game and now sits just 15 points behind Phil Housley's record for points (1,232) by an American.

Modano's second goal closed the gap to 3-2 and made for an exciting finish, especially when Dallas called Turco to the bench for an extra attacker with half-a-minute remaining. Though the Predators bent a little--David Legwand took a hooking penalty with 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation--they did not break and instead sealed their first victory against the Stars in six attempts.

Early on, Vokoun and Turco stood tall in net to keep the game scoreless. J.P. Dumont and Paul Kariya had the best chances for Nashville in the first period. Dumont took an up-ice pass from Ramzi Abid and made a nifty move around a Dallas defender before managing a shot and a rebound chance against Turco with less than three minutes left. Two minutes later, Kariya rang a backhand off the crossbar behind Turco. Dallas' best opportunity in the first came at the 15:00 mark, when Nashville defenseman Dan Hamhuis gifted a pass to Stars forechecker Ladislav Nagy. The winger's shot hit the post to Vokoun's stick side.

Next up for Nashville is a three-game road trip through Western Canada. Games take place next Wednesday (Vancouver), Thursday (Calgary) and Saturday (Edmonton) before the team returns home for a Tuesday, March 27 rematch with Edmonton.

NOTES: The Predators recorded their league-leading 47th win (47-20-6) and have 100 points in the league standings. They have reached the 100-point mark for the second straight season and are six points away from equaling their best season (106 points in 2005-06)... Predators forward Peter Forsberg returned to the lineup after missing six games with an upper body injury. He recorded an assist... The Predators lead the Western Conference in goal scoring with 249 and are 10 goals away from equaling club record for goals in a season (259, set last season)... Kimmo Timonen recorded his first two-goal game of the season, just one day before his 32nd birthday. With 12 goals and 40 assists for 52 points this season he has reached the 50-point mark for the second straight year. His 52 points are career high. He is now two points from 300 in his NHL career (78g-220a=298pts)... Jordin Tootoo scored his first goal since Jan. 17... J.P. Dumont recorded an assist and now has 16 points (6g-9a) in the last 14 games. He is two goals away from his 20th goal. He would become the sixth Predator to reach the 20-goal mark this season and it would be his third straight and fifth career 20-goal season in last six seasons... Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves and is now 5-1-3 in his last nine games... Nashville outscored Dallas 3-1 in the second period and has now outscored opponents 91-58 in the middle stanza this season... The game was the Predators 22nd one-goal win (22-12 record in one-goal games)... Nashville is 32-1-5 when leading after two periods and 36-9-3 when scoring first... The Predators outscored Dallas 2-0 while playing five-on-five and have outscored opponents 156-121 with both teams are at full strength this season... Nashville was outshot 36-24 and is now 27-14-4 when outshot... Vitaly Vishnevski, Martin Erat, Scott Nichol and Steve Sullivan were scratched for the Predators... Saturday's game was a sell-out, Nashville's 10th of the season.

Post-Game Comments

On the topic of playing differently...
We did a few things different in the way we checked, obviously. In Dallas, when they beat us, they had a couple of 5-on-3 goals early in the 3rd, I think it was a 1-1 game at the time. A little bit different, we had to do what we had to do with people out. Our guys dug in, a real good effort.

Post-Game Interviews:

Peter Forsberg  (1:55)

Kimmo Timonen  (2:04)

Jordin Tootoo  (2:51)

Tomas Vokoun  (4:03)

David Legwand  (1:14)

Head Coach Barry Trotz  (12:06)

Kimmo, big birthday boy, got two goals, that's great. Tomas played very well for us. The penalty killers actually did a real good job with the 5-on-3.  First period, both teams came out and didn't give up much. We made a couple mistakes, just casual things that I didn't like. Obviously, Jordin got the first goal; big grind with him and Ramzi down low, and Leggy. I thought a big play was getting the power-play goal right back. Getting the third goal to start the 3rd period was obviously a big goal. For the first twelve minutes of the 3rd, I thought we did a really good job, they weren't really getting anything, we were keeping them to the outside, then we ran into some penalties. Obviously killing the 5 on 3 was real huge. Unfortunately they got lucky with the one clear to make it 3 to 2. We did a lot of good things, but we gotta start managing the game better.

On the topic of Tootoo and Robidas
I watched it; Toots obviously hit their top player, and the correct response in hockey is someone has to get over there and defend your honor. Robidas was really charging at Toots, and he just reacted to people charging at him. I give him a lot of credit - he kept his gloves on and all that. It's sort of a natural reaction when someone's charging at you. Then he started getting attacked by a bunch of guys. I hope Robidas is not hurt, it looked like he hit his head on the ice a little bit. It's just a normal hockey play.

On the topic of Modano's record
That's a great accomplishment for Mike. There's 39 players that have scored that many goals in the National Hockey League, and he's the highest-scoring American. I remember seeing him in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan as a young player and you saw the talent, you saw the ability, he's so graceful and he's been a champion and a leader for USA hockey. It's fitting that he got, you know he's gonna score a few more before he's done. So congratulations to him, it's an accomplishment, keep going.

On the game...
When Timonen scored (to make it) 3-1, we kind of sat back in the third period. I thought we played real well until we made a turnover and we got a couple penalties, but we played real well. It was great Kimmo got a couple of goals on his birthday and everything, it's great.

On beating Dallas knowing they are a potential playoff opponent...
I guess we lost both games to Dallas before, earlier this year, but they have a good team. That was great. We played a solid game. Tomas (Vokoun) made a couple of great saves there at the end, but still, overall, I thought we played a good game and it was great. Like I said, we might play them in the first round of the playoffs and it's great we can show them we can beat them.

On the key to beating Dallas...
You got to make sure that you don't give them any turnovers or turn the puck over. They play a defensives style; they kind of feed off turnovers. You have to make sure where Modano is on the ice. He had two goals today, so you just need to know where he is (on the ice). They have four lines that work really hard, you just have to make sure you know what they're doing, especially when they're working down low and covering in the slot. I think they make good plays coming from the corner. I thought we played very well in our own zone today.

On his two goals...
(Power play), that's a set play we tried to do and Peter (Forsberg) is going to pass to Paul (Kariya) or me. He made a great pass, so it was pretty easy to put it in. The second one was a lucky goal. It was (kind of) a sinker, going down, so it's hard for a goalie to stop.

On scoring his goal late in the period
The second period, a 3-1 lead, it was a big goal. I'm glad I got it.

On the importance of beating Dallas
It was huge. We talked about it this morning, we lost two in a row and we have to get back on-track here. We are going to go on the road next week, play three hard games, and teams are winning. So, teams are catching us. We knew we had to come out and play hard and get two points. It's over and we got two points.

On the action toward the end of the game
Obviously, when you hit one of their top guys, teammates are going to stick up for each other. I think my first reaction was ‘someone's going to be coming after me.' I was just protecting myself. I didn't drop my gloves. Hopefully he is going to be OK.

On his goal putting the Predators up 1-0
It's great to get the guys started. When you stick around the net, good things happen. It's a plus and I'm just happy for the win.

On being a player that is multi-talented
You mature as a player as the years go on and I think good things are happening for me. Obviously, we have a tremendously offensively skilled team here. I think by working hard in practice, that will make me a better player.

On Robidas' injury
"He came to.  He's at the hospital and he's probably got a bit of a headache but other than that I think he will be alright."

On Modano setting the record for goals by a U.S. player
"You look at the impact that Mike Modano has made on hockey in the United States is just phenomenal."

On coming back after being out for 30 games
"Yeah legs felt good. I think my brain probably wasn't quite in it. Turned over a quite a few pucks and wasn't making the plays with desperation or intensity."

On Robidas' injury
"Robi [Robidas] is a tough guy he'll be back. He'll bounce back from that one he'll be okay."

On Robidas' injury
"From what we have heard it seems like he is wide awake at the hospital and talking and alert obviously that is a real good sign."

On setting the record for most goals by a U.S. player
"I've been feeling good. I feel I've been getting tough chances, opportunities.  Wasn't much tonight just a couple shots and they seemed to go in.  That doesn't always happen."

On closing in on Phil Housley's record for most points by a U.S. player
"I'm going to try to get it done. Hate to sit on a summer being 4 or 5 points away."


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