The Nashville Predators headed into a hostile American Airlines Center where they have only won four games out of twenty in their franchise history. Rookie Mike Santorelli knew nothing of that bit of trivia and scored the game winning goal in his first ever NHL shootout attempt to give the Preds a 3-2 win to start the season.
The Predators got on the board early with Jason Arnott shoving the puck into the net from the right of Dallas goaltender Marty Turco’s for a power play goal at 1:48 in the first period. J P Dumont picked up the helper.
Steve Sullivan made it 2-0 Predators at 4:47 in the second when he slipped the puck into the net by a confused Marty Turco who has stopped an initial effort by Jason Arnott. Patric Hornqvist, filling in for the injured J P Dumont on the first line, got the second assist.
Dallas answered the Pred’s scoring with a James Neal rebound goal off of a Dan Ellis rebound with 10 seconds left in the second period making it 2-1 Preds heading into the final period.
At 3:45 in the third, Ben Guite inadvertently caught Brendan Morrow in the face with his stick and was sent to the box. Twenty seconds later, Dan Ellis made a horrible mistake when he tried to clear the puck and passed it straight to James Neal in the slot. Neal fired it straight back into the net for an unassisted power play goal to tie the contest 2-2.
At 7:05 David Legwand almost scored when he got a pipe on a rush down the left wall. At 8:58 Ryan Jones received a hooking penalty that put Dallas back on the power play right as the Stars were gaining momentum and appeared to be the fresher team.
With six seconds let on the Dallas PP Ryan Suter was called for slashing. At 11:15 Dan Ellis stopped a shot from point blank range by James Neal that was probably the stop of the game at a critical point. The Preds managed to kill off 3:54 seconds of Stars power play after looking shaky in the minutes leading up to it.
With 33.8 seconds left, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Sullivan had good shots on net but a neither connected. In the process Brad Richards was called for slashing. The Preds did little on their power play as regulation ended. Ex- Predator Karlis Skrastins had a short-handed breakaway with a couple of seconds left in regulation but shot high and wide.
In overtime the Preds did nothing on the remainder of the power play. At 1:14 Marty Erat was called for hooking. Dallas was unable to convert on their 4 on 3 advantage. The remainder of the overtime was frenzied back and forth, end-to-end action with numerous shots and attempts on goal but no goals.
In the shoot-out Dallas chose to go last. The Preds first sent Steve Sullivan first who placed the puck in Turco’s pads. The Stars countered with James Neal who caught a pipe. Next up for the Preds was Marcel Goc who never really got a shot off in his first ever NHL shootout attempt. Mike Ribeiro then slipped it past Ellis to put the Stars up 1-0. David Lewand countered with a backhand to tie 1-1 and keep the shoot out going. Dan Ellis stayed with Brad Richards to send it to extra shooters.
Marty Erat failed as the fourth man out giving Mike Modano a chance to miss on his attempt. The fifth man out for the Preds was rookie Mike Santorelli who blew it through a surprised Marty Turco’s five hole. Dan Ellis stoned Loui Erilsson to end the contest giving the Preds two points on the road to start the season.
It was quite an amazing victory for the Preds who have focused on getting off to a better start this season. With the exception of the two miscues that led to goals, Dan Ellis made Barry Trotz look like a genius for selecting him to go against his old teammates. Ellis stopped 38 of 40 Dallas shots and looked like he was ready to try to reclaim the number one goalie title.
The one negative from the contest was an injury that forced J P Dumont from the game early in the second period.
The Predators came out early in the first period and skated well in a very physical stanza out hitting the Stars 14-7. Dan Ellis was stellar in goal from the start as Dallas out shot the Preds 14-9 in the period.
A highlight of the first period was a minute long penalty kill when Dallas was on a five on three power play. Legwand, Hamhuis and Klein went the bulk of the two-man advantage, Francis Bouillon had a great knock away on the remaining five on four to kill an odd-man rush.
Early in the second period at 2:43 J P Dumont received a clean hit and was knocked into the boards by Stephane Robidas and had to be helped off the ice. Dallas came close to knotting it up when Mike Ribeiro hit a post at about the 4:00 mark.
At 6:17 in the second, Dan Hamhuis was shaken up when he ran into Brendan Morrow and had to leave the ice. He was able to return for his next shift. Hits were even in the second with each side having twelve, while the Preds led in shots 9-8.
The third period had some sloppy handling of the puck by the Preds. Several turnovers midway through the period led to some Dallas rushes that were unsuccessful scoring attempts but not what you want to see the Predators doing.
For the game the Predators were out-shot 40-26. Jason Arnott had seven shots to lead the Preds while Mike Santorelli had three. In spite of being without Joel Ward ad Jordin Tootoo, the Preds out hit the Stars 35 to 24 with newcomer Francis Bouillon having seven and Jerred Smithson and Ben Guite each having five.
With several face off specialist from last year no longer with the team there was concern with the replacements. It was nat an issue as the Preds were solid in the circle going 37-30 with David Legwand and Marcel Goc leading the way.
The Predators returned home after the game and will have Sunday off before returning to the ice to prepare for Thursday’s home opener against the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. at the Sommet Center.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass