Shea Weber scored on the power play and added two assists as the Nashville Predators won their fifth in a row, defeating the Dallas Stars by a 5-3 final on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. The victory gives Nashville points in 10 consecutive contests, tying a franchise record. The Preds are 7-0-3 during that stretch and have points in 15 of their last 18 games.
“I thought we got better defensively as the game went on,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “In the second period, we really did a good job of limiting them and just playing smart… If you’re taking care of the puck, if you’re not putting yourself in a vulnerable position defensively then there’s a good chance you can win hockey games. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”
Craig Smith scored his 15th of the season, and his second in as many games, when he banged home a loose puck at the net mouth for a 1-0 Nashville lead at 12:38 of the opening period. Stars forward Antoine Roussel tied the game just 10 seconds later, sending an even 1-1 score into the first intermission.
The draw didn’t hold for long once the second stanza got going, as Nashville found the back of the net three times in the period. First, Calle Jarnkrok deflected a James Neal shot on his way to the net to give the Preds a 2-1 lead. Weber made it 3-1 when he blasted a shot home from the point on the power play for his 182nd career point with the man advantage, tying Kimmo Timonen for first in all-time power-play points in club history.
Mattias Ekholm then extended Nashville’s lead to 4-1 just 31 seconds later when he backhanded a shot while streaking down the slot past Antti Niemi, spelling the end of the Dallas netminder’s evening.
After Dallas scored their second goal before the middle period was out, Neal potted his 22nd of the season on a one timer from the right circle and a 5-2 Predators advantage in the third frame. Dallas added one more before the night was out, but Pekka Rinne held tight and stopped 35 shots on his way to picking up his 25th victory of the season.
“Whenever you have confidence as a team, it’s a good thing,” forward Ryan Johansen said. “Right now, we definitely have a swagger when we come to the rink. It’s just fun, and when you’re having fun and enjoying everything, it usually carries out on the ice. It’s great to see us playing some great hockey right now, and we just want to keep this going.”
Welcome Back, Captain:
The Nashville Predators won all three of their previous games with Captain Shea Weber sitting out with a lower-body injury, but they likely wouldn’t have won on Tuesday without him. Weber returned from his absence to score a power-play goal and add two assists, including a primary helper on James Neal’s third-period tally to help lead the Preds to a 5-3 win over Dallas.
“The way the guys are playing, I was a little nervous to come back; I didn’t want to be the reason we lost the game,” Weber quipped. “It was a big win, and I thought the guys did a good job. [Dallas] is a good team over there, they’re able to score. Even in the end there, you’re still thinking that it’s a team capable of coming back, so we did a good job of fighting that.”
Not only is Weber now tied with defenseman Kimmo Timonen with 182 power-play points with the club – the most in franchise history – but Nashville’s captain is also one goal away from tying Martin Erat for second on the team’s all-time list at 163.
More importantly, Nashville’s leader on and off the ice helped contribute to a win and two more points, further solidifying the team’s chance at a berth in the postseason.
“He was terrific,” Laviolette said of Weber. “We got to a point where he felt good and he was 100 percent and ready to play. When that happens, he goes back in because he’s capable of playing a game like he did tonight, which was, the points were obvious, the three points, but the physicality he brings to the game, the defense he brings to the game are equally as important.”
Gif of the Game:
Take in an angle looking out from the goal as Shea Weber puts his full power into a slap shot that rockets past Antti Niemi.
Ryan Johansen on the team’s 10-game point streak:
“I think it’s everyone contributing. All four lines are being used quite a bit and obviously that Ribeiro line has been carrying the load for most of those games. They’ve been playing fantastic and Pekka has been doing his thing back there. Our defensive corps has been strong and leading us out there for a few games. Looking at this last stretch, it’s been great seeing the depth come out and how we’re able to control games for the most part.”
Preds Captain Shea Weber returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing three games with a lower-body injury. Weber played a team-high 26:46 in ice time and registered three shots to go along with his goal and two assists.
Tuesday’s victory marked the 12th time this season the Preds have scored five or more goals in a single contest. Nashville has scored five goals in each of their last two games.
Defenseman Barret Jackman was scratched for Nashville, while forward Eric Nystrom and Gabriel Bourque remain out and on Injured Reserve.
The Preds host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night in Nashville before embarking on a five-game road trip, starting Saturday afternoon in Colorado.
The Predators shoot down the Stars thanks to Shea Weber’s three points in the game.
Infographic: Preds Shoot Down the Stars