Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators best in the West after beating Dallas Stars

By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 6, 2017 at 10:57 AM
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DALLAS -- Juuse Saros has only made six starts this season, so when the Nashville Predators' backup goaltender gets the starting nod as he did Tuesday night, he must capitalize on his opportunity.

In a 5-2 victory against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, a game in which he stopped 43 of 45 shots and the Predators had five different goal-scorers, Saros did the job.

"It's always nice to see a lot of pucks and face a lot of shots, especially when our D is playing good in front of me and most of the shots come outside," Saros said. "It was a good win for us."

Kevin Fiala, Cody McLeod, Pontus Aberg, Kyle Turris and Calle Jarnkrok each scored for Nashville, which led 5-0 after two periods en route to its third consecutive victory. Turris added an assist and Mattias Ekholm had two assists for the Predators, who are 7-5-2 on the road.

Nashville (18-7-3) was 2-for-3 on the power play, making the Predators 13-for-30 with the man advantage over their past 11 games. Nashville also had a short-handed goal against Dallas.

"I thought that we played a good road game early. We were able to cash in on some of those goals," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "The second half of the game, I don't think we were real sharp, but the score was 5-0 at that point."

Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak scored for Dallas, which saw its five-game winning streak end. The Stars (16-11-1) are 10-3-0 at home.

"We had no energy this morning, and we had less tonight. I'm not sure why," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Still, we had 45 shots on goal, a ton of scoring chances, 21 shots in the second period, but the people you count on, you've got to count on. That's just the way it is."

Fiala gave Nashville a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission when he scored his fifth goal of the season with 4:11 remaining in the opening frame.

With the Predators on the power play following a cross-checking call on Dallas captain Jamie Benn, Fiala beat Ben Bishop far post on a wrist shot from the left circle, giving him goals in three straight games.

"We just didn't have it tonight, and we're going to move on," Benn said.

McLeod made it 2-0 with his first goal of the season 2:48 into the second. Alexei Emelin sent the puck into the Nashville zone, and after it deflected off Johns, McLeod scored on a wrist shot from the slot.

Aberg made it 3-0 with his first goal of the season from the right circle at 4:26 of the second. That tally spelled the end for Bishop, who stopped 12 of 15 shots before being relieved by Kari Lehtonen.

Turris gave the Predators a 4-0 lead with his sixth goal of the season. He tipped a one-timed slap shot by Ekholm from the left point with Nashville on the power play.

"Kyle has done a really good job coming in here," Laviolette said of Turris. "He's just provided more depth to our attack and another level to it. I think (Craig) Smith and Fiala are playing really well with him."

Jarnkrok then scored a short-handed goal with 4:44 remaining in the middle frame. He knocked in a pass from Austin Watson, who had skated around the back of the net before feeding Jarnrkok with a cross-ice pass that found him at the far post.

Johns broke the shutout 1:27 into the third with his third goal of the season on a wrist shot from the deep right point.

Oleksiak scored his first goal of the season with 42 seconds remaining for Dallas, his shot deflecting in off the skate of Nashville's Anthony Bitetto.

"It was unfortunate that last one goes in on the redirect. It's really a nothing play," Laviolette said. "(Saros) could've walked away with 40 shots on net and a one-goal-against performance; that's pretty impressive."

Lehtonen stopped 15 of 17 shots in relief of Bishop.

"First, we need to flush it (this game) out with a hockey practice (Wednesday) and then get ready to play (Thursday at St. Louis)," Hitchcock said. "We're disappointed. I'm sure individually some guys are disappointed, so we'll find out (how we respond)."

NOTES: The Predators scratched D Matt Irwin, C Ryan Johansen (upper body) and RW Miikka Salomaki. ... The Stars scratched D Julius Honka and LW Antoine Roussel (flu), who skated in pregame warmups but missed a third consecutive game. ... Nashville hosts Vegas on Friday before embarking on a three-game trip to Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

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