The Dallas Stars saw improvement in their play Thursday night, but it wasn’t enough to end the team’s current skid. The Stars fell 3-2 to Nashville at American Airlines Center, pushing their winless streak to six games (0-4-2).
“We played better, but we got the same result,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “The guys we were counting on had seven or eight good opportunities to make a difference. I thought [Predators goaltender Pekka] Rinne was the difference in the end.”
The Stars outshot the Predators 35-33, but Rinne was superb in goal for Nashville. He made 33 saves, including several sharp ones.
“He was on top of his game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn, who had seven shots on goal. “He made some great saves. He’s one heck of a goalie and when you get a performance like that, you just have to tip your hat.”
Trevor Daley and Patrick Eaves scored for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 of 33 shots. The Stars fell to 4-5-4 on the season.
“I thought we carried the game a lot. We got our shots on goal back up again and Grade A scoring chances up,” said Eaves. “I think it was a big step forward from last game to tonight.”
While the play improved, the end result still hurt. The Stars are winless in four straight at home, where they are 1-2-4 this season.
“It’s tough. We still lost the game,” said Daley. “We’ve won one game at home. It’s frustrating right now. You try to take something out of it. We were the better team tonight, but we didn’t get the job done. What do you take out of that?”
The Predators scored on two of three power play chances and got the game-winning goal from Matt Cullen at even strength with 6:13 left in regulation. Nashville improved to 8-3-2 on the season and to 3-2-0 on their current road trip.
“It was a huge win for us,” said Rinne. “Cullen gets a big goal to win it. We had to battle hard. Dallas was pretty desperate. We knew that going into the game, that they have a lot of talent in their lineup. Just really focused on our specialty teams. We responded really well. PP scored a couple goals and then our PK, we played well.”
After a scoreless first period, the Predators struck twice on the power play in the second period to take a 2-0 lead. Derek Roy set up Craig Smith, who scored from the slot at the 4:10 mark. Filip Forsberg scored from the left circle at the 13:57 mark to extend the lead to 2-0.
But the Stars struck less than three minutes later on a great individual effort by Daley, who went coast-to-coast and with three Predators surrounding him slipped a puck past Rinne to make a 2-1 game with 3:34 left in the period.
The Stars tied the game with 12:37 left in the third. After Daley put a shot on net from the point, there was a scramble in front of Rinne and Eaves got to the loose puck and backhanded it past the Nashville netminder.
Cullen notched the game-winner with 6:13 left, beating a screened Lehtonen to the short side from the right circle to give Nashville a 3-2 lead.
“It took a little wind out of our sails,” Eaves said of the Cullen goal. “We’re still doing a lot of good things. We had a lot of great chances after that. [Rinne] stood on his head. I liked the scoring chances we got down the stretch there. They’re going to start going in for us, we’re doing a lot of good things.”
“We didn’t win and no one is happy with what is going on,” said Ruff. “But I guarantee if you keep progressing along those lines, you’ll win.”
Eakin sits out with injury
Stars center Cody Eakin sat out Thursday night’s game with an upper body injury. Stars coach Lindy Ruff didn’t reveal much when asked how long Eakin might be out.
"It's upper body. It may take some time, or it may not,” Ruff said.
*The Stars are 0-3-2 vs. the Central Division and 1-4-3 vs. the Western Conference.
The Stars outshot the Predators 35-33.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with eight shots on goal. Jamie Benn had seven shots on goal.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and are now 0-15 on the PP over the last four games.
*The Stars were 1-3 on the penalty kill.
*Dallas won 41 of 67 faceoffs (61 percent).
*Shawn Horcoff won 9 of 12 draws (75 percent). Tyler Seguin won 11 of 16 (69 percent). Jason Spezza won 12 of 18 (67 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 8 of 17 (47 percent).
*Trevor Daley led the Stars with 25:12 of ice time.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Eaves
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Jamie Oleksiak – Sergei Gonchar
Scratched: D Kevin Connauton
Injured: C Cody Eakin (upper body), D Patrik Nemeth (arm)
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