Kari Lehtonen turned in a superb performance in goal for the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, but it wasn't enough as the Stars fell 2-0 to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Lehtonen stopped 32 of 33 shots for the Stars, but Ryan Hartman's goal off a Dallas turnover at 5:33 of the third period gave Nashville a 1-0 lead, and then the Predators tacked on a late empty-net goal to seal their ninth straight victory.
[WATCH: All Stars vs. Predators highlights]
"Kari gave us a chance tonight. He played great," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "We battled and competed. It was a hard game, a hard game for a lot of our guys. That's a hell of a hockey team over there. They are really deep. They play the game the right way and are a hard team to play against."
The Stars, who were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and missing goaltender Ben Bishop (knee), defenseman Esa Lindell (illness) and forwards Radek Faksa (foot) and Martin Hanzal (back), had a four-game points streak come to an end.
Video: DAL@NSH: Lehtonen sprawls to shut down Forsberg
"It's always disappointing when you are not able to get points," said Lehtonen. "They are a good team, and we were hanging in there, but we just didn't get it done tonight."
The Stars were shut out for the third time in the last 11 games. During that 11-game stretch, the Stars have scored two goals or fewer eight times. Dallas had four chances on the power play Tuesday but couldn't take advantage. The penalty kill was 5-5, and that kept the Stars in the game.
"We just had too many light plays under pressure," Hitchcock said of the power play. "When you're playing against teams that check well you're going to have to really amp up your competitive level five-on-four. I thought that the penalty killers on both sides did a hell of a job tonight."
The Stars (37-24-6) continue to hold onto the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They are three points behind Minnesota for third place in the Central Division and three points ahead of the ninth-place spot in the Western Conference.
Video: DAL@NSH: Lehtonen dives to keep puck out
"We just have to move forward. We can't be frustrated. We're still right in the mix, and we've got the wild card spot," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "We're just going to have to move on and find a way to score more goals. I feel like defensively we're playing pretty good and the goalies are playing good right now.
"We are just going to have to find ways to chip in some more goals."
Pekka Rinne stopped 26 shots for his seventh shutout of the season as the Predators set a franchise record with the nine straight wins.
"A lot of the games with Dallas, you have to hang in there in the beginning. They competed really hard tonight, and you've got to compete back with them," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. "We just knew that they were going to work hard and compete. You could hear it by what they were saying. They weren't happy with the way they played last night, and they're in a playoff fight. You knew that they were going to come in here and battle, they usually do. I thought as the game went on, our game continued to pick up."
Video: DAL@NSH: Lehtonen denies Johansen with acrobatic save
Lehtonen was sharp in the first period, stopping all nine shots he faced as the Stars and Predators played a scoreless first 20 minutes. Lehtonen had big stops on Ryan Johansen breaking in on net and then on a Craig Smith blast from the slot with Nashville on the power play.
There was no scoring in the second as 12 of the 20 minutes of the period were played with players in the penalty box. The Predators had three power plays, the Stars had two power plays, and the two teams played two minutes of four-on-four hockey. Nashville had a 14-7 shots advantage in the second, but Lehtonen continued to be sharp in goal for Dallas, making seven saves on the Predators' three power plays in the period.
Nashville broke the scoreless tie when the Stars turned over the puck in their own end and Colton Sissons set up Hartman, who roofed a backhand shot at the 5:33 mark.
The Stars killed off a fifth Nashville power play, and Lehtonen made a great save on Filip Forsberg with the two teams playing five-on-five to keep it a one-goal game, but the Stars couldn't get much pressure on Rinne. Nick Bonino sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 14 seconds remaining to make it a 2-0 final.
Video: DAL@NSH: Lehtonen snags Fiala's shot off the face-off
Bishop has knee injury, update on status expected Thursday
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Tuesday that goaltender Ben Bishop has a knee injury and that the team should have a better idea of how long he'll be out on Thursday. Bishop was injured in the first period of Monday's game against Ottawa when Dallas defenseman Dan Hamhuis fell on him in the crease.
"When you have a knee injury, you are not talking days, so we have to see where it goes," Hitchcock said. "We'll see how good of news we get in the next couple days. I think we can probably give you a pretty firm update by Thursday and give you the timeframe we've got to go on."
Center Radek Faksa (foot) and Esa Lindell (illness) both missed their second consecutive game Tuesday. Hitchcock was hopeful that both would be ready to practice Thursday, but he wasn't 100 percent sure on that.
Hitchcock said that center Martin Hanzal, who missed his seventh straight game due to a back issue, is in California getting "looked at" and that there should be an update on him Thursday.
Video: Stars can't overcome Preds in Nashville
The Stars finished with a 1-3-0 record vs. Nashville this season. The Predators were 3-0-1 vs. Dallas.
The Stars were shut out for the sixth time this season.
The Stars were 5-5 on the penalty kill.
The Stars are 19-20 (95.0 percent) on the penalty kill over the last five games.
The Stars were 0-4 on the power play.
The Stars have scored just four power-play goals in the last 13 games and are 4-36 (11.1 percent) on the PP during that stretch.
The Predators outshot the Stars 34-26 and had a 64-48 advantage in shot attempts.
Jamie Benn led the Stars with 4 shots on goal.
The Stars won 28 of 62 faceoffs (45 percent). Tyler Seguin won 7 of 17 (41 percent). Jamie Benn won 6 of 12 (50 percent). Jason Dickinson won 4 of 7 (57 percent).
John Klingberg led the Stars with 24:16 of ice time.
The Stars recalled goaltender Mike McKenna for the AHL Tuesday. McKenna backed up Kari Lehtonen in Nashville.
The Stars also recalled forward Roope Hintz on Tuesday as insurance in case an unidentified player couldn't play due Tuesday to injury issues. That unidentified player was able to play so Hintz, who was on emergency recall, was assigned back to Texas of the AHL after warm-ups in Nashville.
Video: Lehtonen's effort not enough in Nashville
The Stars return home to play Anaheim on Friday. This will be the second of three meetings between the Ducks and Stars this season. The Ducks won the first meeting, 2-0, in Anaheim on Feb. 21. After Friday's game, the Stars play six straight games on the road.
Video: Klingberg speaks following loss in Nashville
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Mattias Janmark - Devin Shore - Alexander Radulov
Remi Elie - Jason Dickinson - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Gemel Smith
Marc Methot - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
Injured: Ben Bishop (knee), Radek Faksa (foot), Esa Lindell (illness), Martin Hanzal (back)
Video: DAL Recap: Lehtonen makes 32 saves in shutout loss
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.