Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty
Goaltender Tomas Vokoun smothers the puck after making one of his 25 saves on the night.
Jeff Halpern scored 4:11 into Period 3 to break a 0-0 deadlock and the Dallas Stars held on to secure a 1-0 win over the Nashville Predators Wednesday night in American Airlines Center. The Predators and the Stars played to a 0-0 draw through 40 minutes of play. Dallas put the Predators on their heels in the opening minutes, but Nashville tilted the ice in the other direction over the final half of the first period. The second and third periods were similarly back and forth, with goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Mike Smith making key saves to cover for teammates' mistakes.
The regulation loss was only the second in 17 games for the Predators, who move to 13-5-2 on the season. The Predators return to action tomorrow night against Vancouver in a 7:00 p.m. tilt at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Halpern's game-winner came 22 seconds after the Predators had successfully killed off a hooking penalty against Alexander Radulov. Halpern entered the Predators' zone on the left side and dropped the puck for Niklas Hagman. Hagman fired a shot that was well wide to the left of the net but caromed off the end boards and out to the right side of the goal. Vokoun lost track of the puck momentarily and reacted too late to prevent Halpern from depositing the rebound into a gaping net.
Nashville came closest to tying the game on a two-on-one that ended with David Legwand ringing a Paul Kariya setup off the post near the 10:00 mark. Winger J.P. Dumont had a close call as well a minute and a half later when he fired a shot off Smith, who lost sight of the airborne puck and had to be assisted by defenseman Trevor Daley in smothering the play.
Earlier in the game, the Predators dodged a bullet when Stars center Mike Modano hit the post on a penalty shot attempt at the 6:40 mark of the first period. Nashville was skating on its only power play of the period when Modano stole the puck from defenseman Kimmo Timomen at the Stars' blueline. Timonen reflexively hooked at Modano as he tried to pull away, and the officials awarded the penalty shot. On his attempt, Modano fired from high in the slot and rang the puck harmlessly off the right post behind Vokoun.
The line of Kariya, Legwand and Martin Erat accounted for nearly all of the Predators' best opportunities in the opening frame. Kariya wristed a shot from a good scoring position into the breadbasket of Smith midway through the period, then Erat just failed to deflect an airborne pass into the net seconds later. Erat then set up Kariya for a one-timer that hit the post at around 13:20.
With Jason Arnott and Josef Vasicek already on the shelf with injuries, the Predators had a scary moment early in the second period. After a whistle stopped play with players in front of the Dallas net, winger J.P. Dumont's left leg was snagged on a Stars player's stick. Dumont fell awkwardly and remained on the ice until trainer Dan Redmond came out to attend to him. Dumont initially stood very gingerly on his left leg, but ultimately skated off with no assistance. He returned to his regular spot on the line with Steve Sullivan and Vern Fiddler midway through the period.
Scott Hartnell was responsible for Nashville's best scoring opportunities in the second, with the first resulting from a neutral zone turnover by Dallas. Hartnell carried the puck in on a 2-on-1 and fired a hard shot that spawned a choice rebound. Nichol, who was tied up as he charged the net, was unable to get his stick on it with just over five minutes expired in the third. Then with 14:30 gone, Kariya found Hartnell alone in front of the left post but Hartnell was unable to connect on two whacks at the puck toward an empty side of the net.
NOTES: The two teams combined for 10 power-play opportunities--three for Nashville, seven for Dallas--but both team's penalty-killing units were perfect for the game... The Predators are 2-12-1 when playing the Stars in Dallas... Mike Modano's first-period penalty shot was the first penalty shot attempt the Predators have faced this season. Tomas Vokoun is 7-for-14 lifetime in the one-on-one showdown... The Stars used a 10-3 third-period shot advantage to outshoot the Predators 26-17 for the game... Martin Erat posted a team-high three shots on goal... Defenseman Ryan Suter led all skaters in ice time, logging 23:55... The Predators outhit the Stars 28-25... Jason Arnott, Josef Vasicek and Kevin Klein were scratched for Nashville.