Nashville Predators look like Prey in Game One loss to the Dallas Stars

After Game one, the Dallas Stars take a 1-0 lead over the Nashville Predators with a 3-2 win.

Game Summary

First Period Highlights

The first period was close to start with neither team really taking charge of the game. The Nashville Predators began to take over at about the ten minute mark of the period. The Dallas Stars we’re unable to push through the Nashville defence and create any dangerous scoring chances in the opening half of the period. The Nashville defence was pushing the play and transitioning the puck out of the defensive end and through the neutral zone.

Roman Josi opened the scoring on a beautiful play. Receiving the pass along the boards, he cut into the slot past a defender and roofed a backhander over Ben Bishops shoulder. The Nashville defender scored his first playoff goal of the year in game one after not scoring at all last post season.

Pekka Rinne wasn’t tested often but when he was he passed with flying colours. He made most saves look easy and didn’t panic when pressure did occur. His ability to stay composed with significant gaps of play in between chances for Dallas was impressive.

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Second Period highlights

The second period started after very similar to the beginning of the first. Neither team really taking advantage with a lot of back and fourth play through the neutral zone with a few chances for each side. Things began to heat up about nine minutes into the period when Viktor Arvidsson was knocked down in the neutral zone. This was followed up by Dallas Stars number one defensemen John Klingberg feeling that Arvidsson was milking the hit and decided to cross check and hold the Nashville forward to the ice. This created a power play opportunity for the Predators and a much more heated game after that.

The intensity continued to rise as the Predators gave the Stars their first power play. The young rookie Miro Heiskanen made a great play picking up a loose puck and faking a pass before firing a shot towards the net, deflecting off Mattias Ekholm and past Pekka Rinne who had been outstanding to that point.

Rinne made a desperation save with the help of a Nick Bonino clearing attempt that went the length of the ice. The Nashville forecheck drew a penalty as Roman Polak interfered in the neutral zone. The Stars continued to excel on the penalty kill as the Predators league worst power-play continues to struggle. A Kyle Turris interference penalty led to a short 4-on-4 and then Stars power-play that didn’t lead to much.

Third Period highlights

The Dallas stars opened the third ready to play. With the Stars pressuring Nashville, Pekka Rinne was forced to hold the Predators in the game for the first few minutes of the third period. The Stars began to take over the period with little to no response from the Predators.

The Dallas Stars pressure finally lead to a goal when Miro Heiskanen potted his second of the game on a floater from the point that Rinne never got his eyes on. A small deflection in front of the net caused the puck to go up and over Rinne’s shoulder.

Nashville finally began to pick up their pace of play, lead by Kyle Turris who begins the playoffs with a strong game after a season mired in injuries and poor play. By the ten minute mark of the third period, Nashville had fallen behind in the shots column 26-22.

Nashville began to apply pressure before a good defensive play by Star captain Jaime Benn lead to a goal at the other end of the ice with Mats Zuccarello scoring off the rebound. The third unanswered goal to this point seemed to put Nashville on their heels.

A productive shift in which the Nashville defensive pair of P.K. Subban and Ekholm dominate the blue line, holding the puck in the offensive zone multiple times. Brian Boyle recovers the puck in a battle along the boards and rung it around the boards to Subban who spins off a defender and toe drags another before roofing the puck over Bishops shoulder to being the game within one and ignite the home crowd.

Nashville doesn’t manage to get many chances toward the end of the third, even with the goalie pulled. The Predators have to play goalie with the empty net, denying three shots towards the goal. The last minute effort fails the Predators as they fall to the Dallas Stars, 3-2.

Team Hero

The hero of the game tonight was definitely Miro Heiskanen. As much as Ben Bishop did to prevent the Nashville offence from scoring, Heiskanen played a complete game. His two goals were key for the Stars. He made a few defensive plays preventing Nashville from entering the zone by stepping up in the neutral zone and stopping the play before it started.

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Not only was he good in all three zones, he only trailed Esa Lindell in ice time for the Stars and was often double shifted in the third period with both Lindell and Klingberg. Heiskanen was a rookie that looked like he was playing his 50th NHL playoff game, not his first.

Edit: As of this morning, April 11th, the second Heiskanen goal was given to Alex Radulov on a tip in front.

Team Villain

The villain for this game is every player that played on the Nashville power play. While it’s been absolutely atrocious all season, failing to capitalize on four power plays throughout this game is unacceptable. With all of the skill that Nashville possesses, they fail to generate any threatening offence with the man advantage due to the offence all coming from the blue line. Getting the puck down low and creating scoring chances from a high danger area. Too many shots are coming from the periphery.

Three Stars of the Game

🌟 D Miro Heiskanen, 1G 1A, 3 SOG, 2 BLK, 23:24 TOI (Originally given 2G but Radulov tipped the second goal in front)

🌟 🌟 D P.K. Subban, 1G, 2 SOG, 2 BLK, 23:14 TOI

🌟🌟🌟 G Ben Bishop, .938 S% (30 saves/32 shots), 2 goals against

Potential for Next Game

This was a weird game. Both teams had stretches of uninspired play. Dallas took over the game in the second half with only the Subban-Ekholm pairing providing a spark for the Predators. The Predators defence will have to continue to carry the offensive load. The Nashville top line of Filip ForsbergRyan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson was the only driver of offence from up front. If this team continues to put up power play performances similar to last night, this series was lost before it started.

As for the Dallas Stars, they need to come out and play exactly how they did in the second half of the game last night. They played physically when it was called for and got timely scoring from their rookie defender and the game winner from their trade deadline acquisition, Zuccarello. If the Stars get their three-headed monster of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alex Radulov going, this series could turn on its head fairly quickly. Look for the stars to continue to push the pace of play as they did in the back half of game one.

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All stats and info is from nhl.comhockey-reference.com, theScore.com and Naturalstattrick.com

Feature image is credited to Nikos Michals 

Author: Tony Ferrari

Born in Ottawa, Ontario and raised in Windsor, Tony has loved hockey his entire life. Growing up as the lone Maple Leafs fan in a household of Red Wings fans, he followed both teams since he was a child. Having been through Toronto’s rebuild as a fan, Tony is ecstatic to be along for the ride and watch the Wings get back to their glory days. Having previously written about the Detroit Lions, Tony looks forward to bringing you content from the hockey world in a series of deep dive articles and analytical points of view that can help you better understand the little things we don’t all notice because they don’t show up on the stats sheet.