The Nashville Predators enjoyed their first stretch of three days off without a game since the opening week of the season but did not enjoy their return to game action on Thursday night.
The Dallas Stars beat the Preds 4-1 for the second time in two weeks in front of a record setting seventh sellout crowd in a row at Bridgestone Arena.
The college night crowd was ready for fisticuffs in retribution for Mark Fistric's hit to the head of captain Shea Weber in a game on December 23 in Dallas. They were rewarded quickly at 1:45 into the game when Jordin Tootoo squared off with Fistric and took him quickly to the ice in a bout where few actual punches were thrown.
Weber was pleased to see his teammate standing up for him, "Great job by (Tootoo). He’s a smaller guy, but he’s as tough as they come."
Barry Trotz was complementary of both participants in how the matter was handled. "That was Toots saying, 'Hey you better stand up for that.' I give Fistric full marks. He didn’t not want to get involved. He said I’ll stand up to that, and once guys stand up to it, it ends it."
Dallas responded with a quick goal from Mike Ribiero at 4:18 to take an early lead. Rookie Gabriel Bourque tied the game at 8:31 with his first NHL goal.
Bourgue described the play, "Tootoo worked hard and made a nice pass right in front of the net and I just had to put the puck in. It’s a good feeling, but when you lose it’s not fun, like a win, but I’m still happy to have my goal."
Ribiero scored again before the end of the period at 19:21 to send the Stars to the locker room with a 2-1 lead. That was as good as it was going to be for the Predators' faithful as Jamie Benn widened the lead in the second period and Steve Ott put the game out of reach in the final period.
Trotz explained how the contest unfolded. "I thought the first period we played a good period but they got the momentum on their side and in the second period they were much better. We had a couple chances when it was 2-1 and if we convert there we may get a little bit better but I didn’t think we were good tonight as a group."
Trotz continued, "Our team play was not very good tonight. A lot of our go to guys didn’t have their A-games and you need that against a Dallas Stars team."
Brian McGrattan had similar thoughts on the game. "Dallas played a pretty good game. We made some mistakes and they made us pay for them. We weren't sharp. Tomorrow is another day and we need to be focused on the game this weekend."
McGrattan discussed the Fistric situation, "That was in the past and we don't gear our game toward one guy on their team. Things happen in games and unfortunately Webs got the worst of it. The best way to beat a guy is to beat their team but unfortunately we didn't do that tonight."
Dallas is not known for being a particularly physical team but McGrattan explained how the game evolved into the rough contest that it turned out to be. "Sometimes games get chippy and it doesn't matter who you are playing. Sometimes some games are more emotional that others but all in all we didn't play our best tonight but we just need to move ahead."
McGrattan wasn't in the mood to dwell on the loss. "They beat us twice in a row and sometimes that's the way things work so we just need to get ready and be geared up for the week ahead."
The week ahead begins quickly with a home game on Saturday night against the slumping Carolina Hurricanes in a contest that the Predators really need two points.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass