Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Stars Stagger to 4-1 Loss in Nashville

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In their opening night 3-2 home shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars played well enough to deserve a better fate. That was not the case in the Stars’ road opener in Nashville on Saturday night. Although Dallas scored first and took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission, Peter Laviolette’s Predators outhustled Lindy Ruff’s Stars for much of the game.

The Preds went on score four unanswered goals to defeat the Stars by a 4-1 count. Former Nashville goaltender Anders Lindbäck (29 saves on 32 shots) took the loss in his Dallas regular season debut. Winning goaltender Pekka Rinne turned back 17 of 18 shots for the Preds.

The Stars got outshot by a 26-13 margin over the final 40 minutes of the game, including a 14-7 margin in the middle stanza and 12-6 in the third period. In terms of shot attempts over the course of the game, Nashville attempted 62 shots to 44 for Dallas.

Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom notched a goal and an assist apiece for the victorious Predators. Gaustad had a Gordie Howe hat trick on the night, fighting Stars checking center Vernon Fiddler, and also won 11 of 16 faceoffs to complete one of the best all-around games of his NHL career. Defensemen Shea Weber and Roman Josi (empty net) tallied the Predators respective first and fourth goals of the night.

Antoine Roussel scored the lone goal for the Stars, opening the scoring a 7:14. On the sequence, former Dallas and Pittsburgh forward James Neal turned over the puck to Ryan Garbutt in the Nashville defensive zone. Roussel took a pass from Garbutt and snapped a shot from the bottom of the right circle past Rinne.

Thereafter, there weren’t many highlights for the Stars. The Predators did a good job at containing both the Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza lines and started to take over the game in the second period. The Seguin line generated one good flurry of chances but Rinne denied Jamie Benn and Weber blocked a shot by Seguin that otherwise would have gone into the net.

Lindbäck, who stopped each of the first 20 shots fired on his net, preserved the skinny 1-0 lead until there was less than one minute left in the second period. Perennial Norris Trophy candidate Weber weaved home a shot from the point to knot the score with 41 seconds left. Most of Weber’s goals from the point come on scorching wrist shots. This one was a seeing-eye wrist shot that Lindbäck probably should have stopped.

The floodgates opened in a lopsided third period. Gaustad put the Predators ahead to stay at 8:33, scoring on a wraparound. Former Stars checking forward Nystrom converted a backhander on a 2-on-1 rush at 10:54 to provide some insurance. Josi put the final nail in the Stars’ coffin with an empty net goal.

Special teams was a non-factor in this game. The Stars had just one power play, failing to convert. Dallas killed all three of its own minor penalties. Roussel received an unsportsmanlike conduct minor and a misconduct shortly past the midway mark of the third period for his response to being felled by a big bodycheck by Weber.

The Stars made a couple of lineup changes from their opening night lines. Erik Cole, who was disciplined for showing up late to a practice last week and then was a healthy scratch against Chicago, skated on left wing of the Spezza line. Patrick Eaves came out of the lineup. Additionally, defenseman Kevin Connauton was scratched against the Predators in favor of former first-round pick Jamie Oleksiak. Fellow rookie Patrik Nemeth was paired with Oleksiak.

The Stars return to action on Tuesday night. They will make their lone trip to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets that night and then head east to play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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