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Poor start dooms Stars in loss to Predators

Stars can't overcome 4-0 first period deficit, fall 7-3 to Nashville

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Fan reaction at the end of the first period told the tale of how Thursday's game against the Nashville Predators went for the Dallas Stars. Boos rained down at American Airlines Center as the Stars skated off the ice down 4-0 and on their way to a 7-3 loss.

"I think we gave them the game. It's just embarrassing," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "From the first shift we were not in the game at all. The whole first period was just embarrassing."

"We just didn't come out ready to play. We played pond hockey right from the start, and that's what happens," said Stars center Cody Eakin. "We didn't show up collectively and left each other out to dry. We didn't work for each other, and that's what happens."

The Dallas deficit grew to 5-0 just 66 seconds into the second period before the Stars mounted a comeback that cut the lead to 5-3, but penalty trouble led to a Nashville five-on-three power-play goal that made it a 6-3 game and the Predators tacked on one more goal in the third period.

"When you are losing 4-0 that is too hard to come back," said Stars center Radek Faksa. "We got a good bounce and we were coming back, but then we were on the penalty kill and they scored, and it was game over."

The Stars had to use both their goaltenders for the 14th time this season. Antti Niemi started but was pulled 13 minutes into the game after allowing two goals on eight shots. Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the way and stopped 21 of 26 shots. Two of the pucks that got by Lehtonen went in off Dallas defensemen.

Injury issues plagued the Stars during the game as well. The Stars started the game with only 11 forwards because Brett Ritchie was out due to a lower-body issue and then lost Adam Cracknell and Justin Dowling during the game. Cracknell returned, but Dowling (upper body) did not. Dowling and Ritchie are expected to miss Saturday's final game. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak also missed time during the game after getting hit in the face with a puck, but he returned.

Jason Spezza, Faksa, and Jason Dickinson scored for the Stars, who had a three-game home winning streak snapped and fell to 33-37-11 on the season.

Viktor Arvidsson registered four points (two goals, two assists) for the Predators who matched their season-high in goals scored and improved to 41-28-12.

"I think we were ready from the start," Arvidsson said. "From the first drop of the puck, we were playing with speed and attitude, and putting pucks at the net, then we got rewarded."

The Predators jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:06 into the game. Craig Smith put the puck towards the net on the rush, and Arvidsson reached out to tip it past Niemi.

The Stars had a couple of good chances to tie. Cracknell's bid from the slot was turned away by Nashville goalie Juuse Saros, and Remi Elie's attempt off the rebound hit the post. About 90 seconds later, the Predators took a 2-0 lead when Smith drove around Stars defenseman Stephen Johns and beat Niemi with a wrist shot. That ended the night for Niemi, who was replaced by Lehtonen 13:02 into the game.

"Those are two tough goals that went in," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "Two goals that our goaltender has got to get for us."

The Predators made it a 3-0 on Kevin Fiala's goal from the left circle at the 18:16 mark. Just 36 seconds later Arvidsson scored his second when his cross-ice pass attempt deflected in the net off Stars defenseman Oleksiak, and it was a 4-0 game after one period.

"This is our own arena and we are playing in Dallas, it should be way better than this," Klingberg said. "There are no excuses for this one. It was just really bad. Terrible."

Nashville extended the lead to 5-0 on a goal by Harry Zolnierczyk at 1:06 of the second period but the Stars started to make things interesting.

Spezza scored from the left circle at the 2:47 mark to cut the lead to 5-1. Just 26 seconds after Lehtonen stopped Austin Watson on a clean breakaway, Faksa tipped in a Dan Hamhuis shot to make it a 5-2 game at the 10:30 mark. A little more than two minutes later, Faksa set up Dickinson, who scored from the right circle to cut the Nashville lead to 5-3.

But the Stars got into penalty trouble late in the period when Julius Honka and Greg Pateryn took back-to-back high sticking penalties, giving the Predators a 46-second five-on-three power play and Roman Josi scored to push the Predators' lead to 6-3 at the 17:27 mark of the second.

The Predators made it 7-3 in the third when a Smith shot from the right circle rebounded off Lehtonen and off Stars Klingberg into the net.

Notes

*With Brett Ritchie (lower body) and Justin Dowling (upper body) expected to miss Saturday's game, the Stars likely will have to call up a couple forwards from the Texas Stars of the AHL.

*Thursday's game was the 18th time this season the Stars have allowed five goals or more in a game.

*Starting with the second period of the Feb. 12 game in Nashville, the Predators scored ten straight goals against the Stars over a span of 45:41.

*Nashville outshot the Stars 34-33. Both teams had 66 shot attempts.

*Devin Shore led the Stars with six shots on goal. Shore, Julius Honka, Radek Faksa and Cody Eakin all had seven shot attempts.

*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 30 of 60 faceoffs (50 percent).

*Esa Lindell led the Stars with 23:38 of ice time.

What's Next

The Stars close out the season Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars are 3-1-0 against the Avalanche in the season series.

Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Tyler Seguin - Adam Cracknell
Gemel Smith - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Jason Dickinson - Justin Dowling

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns/Greg Pateryn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Brett Ritchie (lower body), Curtis McKenzie (eye), Antoine Roussel (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Jiri Hudler (groin), Patrick Sharp (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)

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 Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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