Cody Eakin scored the game-winning goal on a penalty shot with 56 seconds left in overtime, and Jhonas Enroth stopped 33 shots as the Dallas Stars defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-3, at Bridgestone Arena Saturday night.
Eakin was slashed by Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm as he broke in on net late in overtime, leading to the penalty shot. Eakin then beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne with a wrist shot.
“Went to old faithful and shot it low blocker,” Eakin said.
The Stars, who lost a wild game to St. Louis Friday, battled through another up and down game Saturday. They fell behind 1-0 in the game, scored three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead. But Nashville rallied to tie, getting the equalizer with just under two minutes left in regulation. But the Stars found a way to win in extra playing time.
“It’s a good finish by us,” Eakin said. “Some of those games are going to go like that, I just think we’ve had too many this year that we’ve given up, but tonight was a good battle.”
The win kept the Stars mathematically alive in the Western Conference playoff race, but they remain six points out and with just three games left.
“We’re fighting for our lives here,” Stars forward Travis Moen said. “We’ve got to come out with another full, strong three games.”
Moen, Tyler Seguin and Colton Sceviour also scored goals for the Stars. Enroth became the first starting goaltender other than Kari Lehtonen to win a game for the Stars in more than a year. Tim Thomas was the last to do it, winning at St. Louis on March 11, 2014.
“He played well. Jhonas played well,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I felt bad there, that last one snuck through, but he gave us two point blank saves that were big saves.”
The Predators dropped their third straight game (0-1-2) but with the point they moved one point ahead of St. Louis and two points ahead of Chicago in the race for first place in the Central Division. Both the Blues and Blackhawks have one game in hand.
“There were a lot of good, positive things to take from tonight but at the end of the night we have to win the game,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think we could have played a cleaner game, there’s things that we could've done to keep the game a little cleaner and manage the puck a little bit better but you got to win a hockey game. We didn't do that.”
The Predators scored the only goal of the first period. An Ekholm shot from the point hit traffic and the puck ended up on the stick of Filip Forsberg, who tapped it into the open side of the net to give Nashville a 1-0 lead 9:59 into the game.
The Stars scored the only goal of the second period. After a Nashville turnover, Sceviour put a shot on net and Moen swept the rebound past Rinne to make it a 1-1 game 4:09 into the second. Enroth was sharp in the second, stopping all 15 shots he faced.
The Stars went on their first and only power play of the night early in the third and scored to take a 2-1 lead. Seguin scored off a blast from the left circle at the 3:23 mark. Sceviour extended the lead to 3-1 at the 7:28 mark, slipping a puck past Rinne from close range.
But Nashville bounced back to tie. Ryan Ellis got open in the slot and scored off a wrist shot to make it a 3-2 game at the 10:46 mark. With Rinne out of the net for an extra attacker, Mike Ribeiro set up James Neal, who scored from right circle with 1:55 remaining to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to overtime.
Jordie Benn returns; Nemeth sits
Jordie Benn was back in on defense Saturday night after sitting out the past three games. He missed two games with a sore back and was available to play Friday but was scratched. With Benn back in, Patrik Nemeth was the odd man out on the blue line. Stars coach Lindy Ruff explained following Saturday’s game.
“I just think his play has tailed off from missing all that time,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He had a pretty good stretch, but I think he was a little bit of a weak link that I needed to get out and rest. For a young defenseman that missed that much time, it is probably expected.
*The Stars were 5-6-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season, including 5-2-0 in their last seven.
*The Stars have won their past five games that have gone beyond regulation.
*The Stars have scored penalty shot goals in consecutive games.
*The Stars improved to 7-14-7 vs. the Central Division.
*Nashville outshot the Stars 36-24.
*The Predators had a 71-48 advantage in attempted shots.
*The Stars were 1-1 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 35 of 66 faceoffs (53 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 15 of 27 draws (56 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 11 (56 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 8 (63 percent). Jason Spezza won 6 of 12 (50 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:41 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Shawn Horcoff (illness)
This story was not subject to the 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 Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.