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Sluggish first sinks Preds vs. Stars

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Photo by John Russell
Predators rookie winger Alexander Radulov scored his 17th goal of the season in the second period.

Unable to overcome a first period in which they were outshot 11-4 and outscored 3-1, the Nashville Predators were defeated by the Dallas Stars 4-2 Saturday night at Nashville Arena. Greg Zanon and Alexander Radulov scored for Nashville.

With the loss, Nashville's record falls to 49-23-7 and the team remains one point behind both Detroit and Anaheim in the Western Conference standings. The Predators are currently slotted into the fourth spot in the West and would face the fifth-place Stars in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the regular season ended today.

Dallas scored the game's first two goals, with Jeff Halpern tallying 2:01 into the first period and Jussi Jokinen adding another marker at 4:44. Nashville defenseman Greg Zanon cut the home side's deficit to one when he netted an unassisted goal at 6:25. While en route to the net, Zanon's right point shot went through the legs of crossing teammate Jerred Smithson and bounced past goaltender Marty Turco. The goal was Zanon's third of the season.

Dallas re-established the two-goal lead 13:21 into the first when Stu Barnes deflected a Mattias Norstrom point shot past goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

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The Predators began the second period by killing off an important two-minute 5-on-3 power play, then Alexander Radulov scored to make it 3-2 at 13:53 of the middle frame. Peter Forsberg started the play when he carried the puck over the opposing blue line on a rush and dropped it for Radulov. Radulov's shot was directed to the end boards where Darcy Hordichuk retrieved the puck and was stopped on a follow-up chance. An attempted clear by Dallas was intercepted by defenseman Dan Hamhuis inside the blue line. Hamhuis' shot was turned aside and Hordichuk again once again gathered the puck in the left corner. He sent the puck in front from a sharp angle and it squirted through the crease to Radulov in front. The rookie winger held the puck and waited for Turco to stretch out laterally before Radulov backhanded a shot high into the net.

The Predators closed the shot gap in the second period, nearly matching Dallas with an 11-15 margin, and outshot the Stars 11-9 in the third. Vokoun made a pair of big stops at the midway point of the third, stopping Jokinen and Antti Miettinen. Seconds later, though, those two combined to set up Mike Modano for a back-breaking fourth Dallas goal. Predators defenseman Shea Weber struggled to corral the puck below the hashmarks of his own zone and allowed Modano to take it away and score to the short side at the 10:31 mark.

Nashville answered with a number of good chances during a power-play that began at 12:04. Paul Kariya lifted a choice opportunity over the net during that flurry. Still the Predators couldn't slip another puck past a sharp Turco. When forward Jordin Tootoo, playing in his first game since returning from a five-game suspension, took a roughing penalty with 2:05 remaining in regulation, Nashville's chances for a late comeback dwindled.

The Predators return to action Tuesday night with the fourth game of a five-game homestand. Nashville closes out their season series with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 7:00 p.m. meeting at Nashville Arena.

NOTES: Alexander Radulov scored to extend his point streak to five games. He has six points (3g-3a) in that span... Nashville allowed three first-period goals for the first time since opening night, Oct. 5, 2006 against Chicago... In the first three games of the Nashville-Dallas season series, the teams combined for a total of one goal. Tonight four were scored in the first period... Greg Zanon has 3 goals in his last 32 games after going goal-less through January 15... The Predators outscored Dallas 1-0 in the second period and have now outscored opponents by a combined 96-60 in second periods... Nashville trailed after two periods for only the 19th time this season. The team's record when doing so is 3-15-1... Vitaly Vishnevski, Scott Nichol, Martin Erat and Steve Sullivan were scratched for Nashville.

Post-Game Comments

Highlights of Predators vs. Stars, March 31, 2007 (:49)

Predators head coach Barry Trotz, postgame press conference, March 31, 2007 (6:11)

General Game Impressions
After the game against Detroit you want to respond in the right way and I'm very disappointed in the way we came out tonight. I just thought that we stood around... as I said to the guys, we got exactly what we deserved today. You know you need your top guys to be your top guys. I didn't think that our top guys were at the level that they needed to be. We're gonna look at our start, maybe it was the coaches' preparation, I don't know but we're going to review what we did today because it didn't work.

Especially in the first know we gave up three goals in the first period.  We haven't done that since opening night I believe and when you dig a hole like that against a team like that who plays as well defensively as the Stars do that's a big hill.  But I thought that we responded in the second, got it to 3-2, a couple of glorious chances you know Fids (Fiddler) all know Weber came in on a 2 on 1 with JP, you know it could have been 3-3.

We were in the game, then obviously turned the puck over in the neutral zone and they scored and that sort of put a stake in our heart right there. You know I thought we lost the game in the first period obviously with the way we came out, we stood around and watched, and didn't engage until it was 3-1.

Post-Game Interviews:

Tomas Vokoun  (1:16)

Greg Zanon  (2:07)

Paul Kariya  (1:59)

Jason Arnott  (3:00)

Head Coach Barry Trotz  (6:17)

I thought after the Detroit game you know maybe we were feeling sorry for ourselves, I don't know, I'm gonna review it and talk with my leadership group and see where we went wrong there - we're always a traditionally a pretty good team coming out of the box, I cant think of too many games where we got off to a slow start...maybe we were anticipating something happening or whatever but we stood around and watched and they (Dallas) just came out and played.

On the Predators' effort against Dallas..
They were just better than us in every area. Basically, you can't just give up. They are a good team... They were just quicker to the pucks, I mean, they did everything better. They were more disciplined; they played better defense.

On Dallas being a potential playoff match-up..
There are eight tough teams. There's really only one you can pick. I don't really care who we play. We want to start at home. I think that's something we want, but next to that, I don't care who we play.

On the game..
We struggled to start with the puck and we didn't really play our game. We turned over a lot of pucks in the neutral zone. They were on the attack most of the night. When we were on the attack, we had some good opportunities. Turco made some real good saves for them that we didn't bury. That's the way the game goes. It's too bad, because we really needed the two points and left these last three games as kind of a stepping-stone into the playoffs and playing the right way, playing some playoff hockey, really tight down the stretch.

On the team being ready for tonight's game
I think everybody was, just maybe that first goal, right away, kind of took the wind out of our sails. Then, we were able to cut it in half, making it 2-1, and then they came back right away and got another one. We didn't play very well in the first (period), but we came back and were starting to pick it up in the second. The third period, we were coming with a bit of force. I don't know if it's one of those nights, when coming down to the end of the season. It was a big game for us, but I think we can use it as a learning experience. You can't have any shutdowns no matter what time of the year it is, especially in the playoffs. We could be down one to nothing right now in a playoff series and sometimes that's tough to come back from. So, we have to use it as a learning experience to come ready and play our best every night. Sometimes you're going to be unfortunate that that happens, but we kind of let ourselves down in the first period.

On wanting building a rivalry with Dallas
We wanted to come out and play solid. That was our goal. We didn't do it, but that wasn't on our mind. We're trying to play a good team game here, we got some work to do, but I think it'll be alright.

On having a lack of focus
No. I'm not quite sure what it was. We came out, we had some turnovers, and it's tough since we didn't come to play right off -the-bat. I thought we played a little bit better in the second and third (periods), but the first really killed us.

On what Tootoo brings to the ice
You watch him every night, he comes and plays hard. He's always ready to finish his checks. You notice in there, when the puck goes deep and he's in there, you couldn't even be watching, you just hear the fans. You know he's coming and he does that every night. He's a very valuable piece to our team and it's definitely good to have that.

General Impressions
"Our team played very well tonight. We are a very disciplined, hard hockey team and that's what it's going to take for us to win."

Early goal taking the energy out of the building
"I think it did. I think it did. We came out we knew it was going to be a hostile environment but you know what, that is what makes the game fun. If you are the visiting team coming in here that's a lot of fun...  if you do play well, you can shut a lot of people up."

General impressions
"Not a surprise that both sides played hard and played well. That is just something that you need to have every night - kinda your ‘lunchpail' mentality.  But then it comes down to execution and playing and sticking to the game plan.  It was a fun and electric atmosphere tonight and two teams playing some hockey and its special hockey this time of year."

Important getting a strong start
"Playing back to back, plugging in new guys in is nothing new for us.  So yeah, it helps getting that start.  We knew they weren't going to go away and we were going to continue working as hard as we could. The momentum that they had... we just tried to not let them keep it in the second period and held them off for the win."

"Had some good legs there at the start.  Good first period, so that kinda gave us a little bit of a relief factor that we were involved in the game and had a good start."

How important is the first goal
"Well it's good. It takes the crowd out and we knew it was going to be a little hostile.  I think that gave us a little bit more focus in the game. Being on the road and that type of environment I think we really kinda rise to the occasion."

More tension than last game
"A little bit. I think the game was a little revved up but the refs did a great job - good discipline."


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