Dallas scored twice in the shootout and the Nashville Predators fell to the Stars by a 4-3 final on Saturday night at the American Airlines Center. The result sends the Preds into the Christmas Break on a three-game winless skid, the longest such streak of the season.
Despite being a recent point of emphasis, the Predators took four minor penalties in the opening period, and although they only allowed one power-play goal in the period, it gave Dallas life, enough to ultimately help them to an eventual win.
“For parts of the game we were [the better team], for parts of the game they were, and that’s not what we’re looking to do,” Predators forward Austin Watson said. “They take advantage of what we give them. The second period, a couple turnovers in the neutral zone, if we take that out of the game, I think we’re going to like the results a bit more.”
It took less than a minute into the contest for Alexei Emelin to tally his first as a member of the Preds to give his club a 1-0 advantage, before Calle Jarnkrok’s shorthanded snipe bumped the lead to two.
But Dallas roared back to score three unanswered – one in the first and two more in the second – to take their first lead of the evening into the intermission.
“We have a stranglehold on that game at 2-0 and we talked about it all year,” Watson said of the penalties. “Whether we like the calls or not, we’re the most penalized team in the League. You’re not going to like every call, but at some point, you have to look in the mirror. We have been, but it’s going to take a harder look, I think, because we’re spending too much time in the box. It kills the flow at the beginning of the game.”
A Nashville power play in the third brought a Ryan Johansen strike to tie the game at three and force overtime, but after two empty power-play chances for Nashville in extra time, two goals from the home team in the shootout kept the Preds at just one point in their last three outings.
“We have that long of time to play 4-on-3 and 5-on-3, we just have to find a way to score,” Preds Captain Roman Josi said. “When there’s that much time, you have to put the game away.”
The Preds will now head back home to Nashville for the three-day Christmas Break, a respite that comes at a time when the club could use some time to recharge before returning to three games in four days next week.
“We have to be confident,” Josi said. “Every team goes through these phases. The last three games, we didn’t play the way we wanted, but we’re a confident group. We’re a pretty honest group, and I think everybody knows we can play a lot better.
“But for now, just enjoy Christmas, forget about hockey for a little bit, and I’m sure everybody is going to come back hungry. We all know we have to be better, but we have to stay confident and come back positive with a lot of energy.”
Preds Captain Roman Josi challenged the coaching staff to take a holiday-themed bet for the team’s three-game trip to Western Canada earlier this month. The Preds went 3-0-0 and so Laviolette and his staff had to wear holiday suits behind the bench for Saturday’s game in Dallas.
They did so, and with plenty of holiday cheer to spare.
Redemption for Emelin:
On Tuesday, Alexei Emelin was in a position he rarely finds himself: at center ice, with his arms in the air celebrating a goal.
The only problem was his third-period shot, that would have given Nashville a 5-4 lead over the Winnipeg Jets, had hit the crossbar and gone down into the crease, not the net. So after the contest he joked he’d just have to get one next time.
A bold prediction to say the least, considering the defensive-minded blueliner was the only remaining player on the active roster without a goal.
It wasn’t the very next game, but later in the week, Emelin found open ice in the first period against the Dallas Stars and wired a wrister past Ben Bishop only 34 seconds into the game to pot his first goal with the Predators and first since Jan. 14, 2017, versus the New York Rangers, while playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
Craig Smith returned to action after missing Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury. Pontus Aberg, Miikka Salomaki and Matt Irwin were scratched.
P.K. Subban’s assist on Ryan Johansen’s goal extended his point streak to six games.
Juuse Saros allowed his first goal in more than 120 minutes of game action when Tyler Seguin scored in the first period.
Nashville now enters the mandatory three-day Christmas break and will next play on Dec. 27 in St. Louis against the Blues before a home-and-home set with the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 29 and 30.