Steve Sullivan scored a hat trick in his return to the Predators lineup Thursday night to lead Nashville to a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars in front of 13,350 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky added a goal and two assists and Paul Kariya, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell each added a pair of helpers in the second consecutive victory for Nashville. The Predators' record now stands at 10-2-3 on the season.
"It was fun to be out there," Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun said. "[Sullivan] played a great game tonight. He was the difference in the game. [Dallas] is a great team and there is no question about that. We played hard and we won."
Nashville entered the third period trailing 3-2. Zidlicky tied the game 15 seconds into the third, after toe-dragging the puck around a defender then putting his own rebound past Stars goaltender Marty Turco. Sullivan, who missed the last two games with a groin strain, scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to complete the comeback rally. On his first of the period and second of the game, he took a pass from Timonen and banked the puck into the net. His third was a future highlight reel staple, as he took an outlet pass on his side of the red line and stickhandled his way through Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov with three moves before getting around him to the right and firing a low shot past Turco.
"When I got the puck, they had a couple of Dallas guys backchecking," Sullivan said, describing his final tally. "There was only Zubov in front of me so I figured I might as well just try to play him one on one since I wasn't going to be able to wait for anyone else to catch up to me. So I made a couple of moves on him and I don't think Marty Turco thought I was going to be able to get the shot off. I think Zubov had me wrapped up pretty good so i don't think he was expecting the shot. I think I just beat him low, blocker side--just caught him off guard."
"I've never seen that kind of play on [Zubov]," Zidlicky said.
Nashville has won five games this season when trailing after two periods and are 6-0-1 when giving up the first goal of the game. "We seem to be really good when we're behind," Predators head coach Barry Trotz said.
After struggling on the power play of late, Nashville cashed in at a 40 percent clip against Dallas. The Predators connected on four of 10 chances with the man advantage, netting two goals during five-on-three opportunities. Only Sullivan's third goal, which came with less than three minutes left, was an even-strength tally for Nashville.
"The thing that happened with the power play is that we established shots. We established lanes," Trotz said.
The teams traded power play goals to open the game. Stars forward Brendan Morrow fired the puck in at 6:01 of the first to give his club the 1-0 lead while Dan Hamhuis sat in the penalty box for tripping. The Predators were unable to capitalize on a very brief five-on-three advantage late in the period, but Martin Erat answered with his fourth goal in as many games at 18:46 while still on a five-on-four power play. Teammate Yanic Perreault had attempted a shot from his position to the right of the Dallas net before gathering his own rebound and centering the puck to Erat, who fired it under Turco.
Dallas took a 2-1 lead 3:21 into the second period when former Predator Nathan Perrott got a shot off while sitting on the ice in front of Nashville's net and the puck trickled through Vokoun and across the goal line. But the Predators again responded, this time less than three minutes later. With both Perrott and Stars captain Mike Modano penalized, the Predators' power play unit closed in around the three penalty killers. Timonen sent the puck to Kariya at the right of the net, and Kariya threaded a cross-ice pass to Sullivan near the left post. As Turco scrambled along the ice to cover the open side, Sullivan patiently settled the puck and roofed it into the top of the net.
Sullivan almost got his second of the night and put his team up 3-2 via a penalty shot. Halfway through the middle period and with Nashville short-handed, Predators forward Jerred Smithson cleared the puck high off the right side boards from inside his own zone. Sullivan picked the puck up in the neutral zone and was off on a breakaway, only to be fouled by a Dallas defender before getting a shot off. He was awarded a penalty shot and missed high with a bullet targeting the top right corner.
Philippe Boucher put the Stars ahead 3-2 with Dallas' second power play conversion of the night at 15:53 of the second. Overall, Nashville's penalty killers negated seven of nine power play chances. After being outshot 23 to 19 through two periods, the Predators dominated the third with 13 shots to five for Dallas. Vokoun outdueled Turco in the period as well, blanking the Stars shooters as Nashville beat Turco three times.
The Predators play again on Saturday when they entertain the St. Louis Blues for a 7 p.m. game at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Less than 600 tickets remain for the Central Division match-up and the first 10,000 fans will receive a free First Tennessee Team Calendar. For tickets, call (615) 770-PUCK, order online, or visit any Ticketmaster outlet. The game will not be televised but will be broadcast locally on 104.5 FM The Zone.
Notes: Martin Erat scored the game's first goal for the fourth time this season and the Predators' first goal for the fifth time. All but one of his six goals have come in the first period... The Predators scored four power play goals for the first time this season. It was also the first time in 2005-06 that the Predators scored more than one power play goal in a game on home ice... Five of Steve Sullivan's eight goals have come while on the man advantage... Nashville outshot an opponent for the first time since Opening Night (Oct. 5), when the Predators edged San Jose in shots 25 to 24. Nashville also held an opponent to under 30 shots for the first time since Oct. 15 at St. Louis. The Predators are 2-0 when outshooting their opponent... Kimmo Timonen has collected four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in his last two games... With his three-point night against the Stars, Marek Zidlicky broke out of a scoring drought during which he registered only one assist in his last 11 games... Nashville dominated the face-off circle against Dallas, winning 63 percent of the draws. Jerred Smithson and Yanic Perreault led the Preds by taking seven of nine and 11 of 15, respectively... Nashville is 7-1 on home ice this season.