by Ed Neely
The Nashville Predators welcomed the Dallas Stars into Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night for a Central Division match up with Stanley Cup Playoff implications. This was an opportunity for the Stars to claw further up the standings or the Preds to set a franchise record 9 win streak.
The first period was a back and forth affair with only one truly dangerous scoring chance when Kevin Fiala sent a laser of a shot that just kissed the crossbar and deflected back out. The first period also saw two too many penalties for the good guys given the skilled shooters on the Stars roster, but both Penalty Kills stood tall.
The second period started where the first left off with a fast back and forth pace of play that got more and more chippy as the period went along, with 7 total penalties between the two teams in the 2nd period alone. But as the period went on, the Preds started to outpace their opponents in quality chances. The 2nd period ended right where it began, in a scoreless tie.
The final frame of the night started off fast and the tie was finally broken at the 5:33 mark when Austin Watson and Colton Sissons pressed hard on the forecheck and then Ryan Hartman threw a sweet backhand from the left face off dot and beat Kari Lehtonen top shelf to go up 1-0. The score stayed that way until the 19:46 mark when John Klingberg tripped on the Stars’ net and turned the puck over and Nick Bonino capitalized to bury it in the empty net. The score ended up in a 2-0 shutout.
What we learned
Rarified air. The Preds set a franchise record for the longest win streak at 9 games and Pekka Rinne became just the 18th goalie in league history to record 300 wins and 50 shutouts in a career.
Vote for Pekka. Pekka Rinne drew into a tie with Andrei Vasilevskiy for the most shutouts on the season. He has 3 fewer wins than Vasilevskiy but has played in 6 fewer games. Pekka has a better Goals Against and Save Percentage as well. If there was ever a year when Rinne deserved the Vezina, this is the year.
The new guys are good. Both the new new guy, Ryan Hartman and the old new guy, Mike Fisher, showed why they were added to this roster at this time. Hartman had the game winning goal and was a factor every time he was on the ice and Fisher played with more grit and passion than guys 10 years his junior. Both are tough players who are relentless. Their presence only reinforces the idea that this Nashville Predators team is the deepest in the NHL and is positioned very well for another deep run.
Photo credit: ANDREW NELLES / TENNESSEAN.COM