The Dallas Stars failed to score a goal in their most important game of the season Thursday night, and the results was a 2-0 loss at the Nashville Predators and a mathematical elimination from the Western Conference playoff race. The loss kept the Stars at 89 points (42-34-5), three behind the eight-place San Jose Sharks (92 points), who cemented a postseason spot after the Stars and Colorado Avalanche lost.
Dallas does have one game remaining, but even a victory against the visiting St. Louis Blues on Saturday wouldn't be enough to catch the Sharks even if they lost their final two contests.
Meanwhile, for the second straight season the Phoenix Coyotes clinched a playoff berth due to a Stars' late, regular-season loss. The Coyotes currently sit in the seventh spot, but a loss and a Sharks victory would result in a flip-flop in the standings.
The fat lady finally sings for the Dallas Stars season as they lose 2-0 to the Nashville Predators. They entered this period tied at 0-0 and with a chance to keep their season going a little longer, but the effort wasn't there.
Nashville finally broke the deadlock off of a rebound. David Legwand went around the net and shot the puck off of Lehtonen's pads. The puck bounced into the slot, where there was a group of Predators just waiting to pounce on the puck. It landed on the stick of defenseman Francis Bouillon and he quickly fired it by Lehtonen's left leg for the 1-0 lead. It was just a mess in the slot and one of the Stars' forwards (I believe it was Radek Dvorak) just lost track of Bouillon.
The Stars looked bad for much of this period as they just had a lot of trouble keeping control of the Predators' forwards. Kari Lehtonen had to make more big saves in the first 10 minutes of this period that he had the first two periods combined. The Mark Fistric injury had to have caused a big problem.
Nashville ended the Stars season with another goal with just two minutes left in the game. A Brandon Yip shot was saved by Lehtonen and the rebound floated out to the slot. Sheldon Souray, Stephane Robidas and Michael Ryder were all there for the rebound but didn't even move to try to get the puck. They just gave up and Patric Hornqvisteasily took the rebound and fired past Lehtonen. It was a pathetic show of effort by the Stars players and it was an epitome of how Dallas has played the last two weeks of the season.
Offensively, this team just couldn't do it. There wasn't an urgency to work the puck at the net or to have players crash the net. There were too many easy clears for the Predators defenders. Dallas was trying too hard to pass the puck into the net, looking for that perfect play before shooting.
With the loss, Dallas now cannot make the playoffs and have a meaningless game on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues to close out the season.
This was a period of nothing, absolutely nothing. There were just about no scoring chances for either side and any shots were easily stopped by the goaltenders.
Nashville is literally blocking everything this period. The big bodied defensemen and forwards are throwing their bodies in front of the puck and keeping a lot of shots away from Rinne. A bit tough to score goals when your shots don't even reach the net area.
Dallas was in the most danger with three minutes left in the period when the Predators went on a power play. Kari Lehtonen was under siege for the first minute of the power play but managed to stop everything thrown his way.
Offensively, both teams have been pretty sloppy. Guys are whiffing on shots and making some bad passes. There are fewer offsides than there were in the first period, but it's still not very pretty hockey to watch.
Each team had eight shots in the period and Nashville is outshooting Dallas 17-16 for the game.
Mark Fistric also suffered a lower body injury sometime in this period and will miss the rest of the game. I'm not sure when exactly he was injured.
It may be considered a small miracle, but the Stars somehow didn't allow a goal in the first period. It's only the second time in the last eleven games that Dallas has held the opponent scoreless in the first twenty minutes. Lehtonen didn't really have to do too much that period. He stopped all nine shots he faced, but very few were real scoring chances.
Nashville is playing a defensive game, packing in the slot and keeping rebounds away from the Stars forwards. Rinne had a good first period, stopping all eight shots that he faced. He's getting a lot of help from his defenders though. They have their sticks in the lane and are blocking a lot of passes and shots.
The biggest news of the period for the Stars is that Jamie Benn is actually on the first power play unit (no, really he is. Honest) along with Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Mike Ribeiro and Stephane Robidas.. They were immediately able to get three shots and two good scoring chances on Pekka Rinne. Unfortunately, none of those shots got past him but it was certainly encouraging to see some danger in the power play unit. All the fans have been calling for this for months though so you have to wonder what Gulutzan was thinking all this time keeping him tucked away on the second unit.
Nashville outshot Dallas 9-8 in the period. Somehow, Philip Larsen was the team leader in shots on goal (with two) after the first period.
The Dallas Stars are in a full do-or-die scenario to make the playoffs, having gone 3-7-0 in their last ten games after a red-hot March that thrust them back into the NHL's Western Conference playoff race. The Stars had a lot of success against Nashville early in the season, outscoring the Predators 10-4 in their first two meetings, but dropped a 3-2 decision in February.
After losing three straight, Dallas gets good news that Nashville might rest goalie Pekka Rinne, who is suffering from a virus and missed Nashville's win Tuesday against Minnesota. The Stars have gone 1-of-21 in the power play in their last seven games.