The Nashville Predators had everything going for them in the 1st period of last night’s Game 1 against the Dallas Stars.

But a two goal third period by the Stars doomed the Preds in the end, forcing at least a split in the first two home games for Nashville. Though the Preds looked like the better team in the 1st period, the Stars took over from there, winning the last 30 minutes plus of the game.

“The objective is to play more good minutes than the opposition and they took it to us with
those 30 minutes,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the game.

Hot Start, Cold Finish

From the moment the puck dropped, it was clear the Preds wanted to establish physical play. They came out laying some huge hits on the Stars early on, including this monster of a hit that Brian Boyle laid on Jason Dickinson.

Physicality was a theme throughout the 1st period, where the Preds laid 14 hits total. On top of that, the Preds were owning the puck possession and shot battle early on. They looked ready to dominate the game.

After several great scoring chances, Roman Josi finally got the Preds on the board with this beauty of a goal.

Then in the 2nd period, the Stars brought their own physical brand of hockey. John Klingberg roughed Viktor Arvidsson about mid way through the period, starting an intense post-whistle scrum. Arvidsson would leave the game momentarily, but returned to serve on the power play.

Shortly after that, Miro Heiskanen tied the game 1-1 on a shot from the point while on the power play. It didn’t look like too hard of a shot, but Rinne missed it in the traffic in front of the net.

At this point in the game, a familiar theme emerged for the Preds. Their power play continued to be terrible. No goals on three chances through the 2nd period, and it was more of the same from that unit. Very little quality time in the zone, and very little quality shooting on the Dallas net.

The Preds combined poor special teams play with disjointed even strength play early in the 3rd period and found themselves down a goal late. The Stars took a 2-1 lead when Alexander Radulov tipped home a blueline shot.

From there, the Stars clamped down on the neutral zone, denying easy entries. The Preds did not have a lot of offensive zone time in the 3rd. The trap was working well for Dallas and they didn’t relent.

Mats Zuccarello put the Stars up 3-1. That seemed to be the nail in the coffin, though a late push from Nashville made it interesting. P.K. Subban gave the Preds life with a nice wrister from the right circle and led to a frantic final six minutes.

But the Stars held their defensive shape. They didn’t allow many good chances on Bishop in the 3rd, and the ones they did, Bishop was up to stopping.

“They were quicker than us”

This was a common refrain from coach Peter Laviolette after the game. He probably said some version of this phrase about six times in his post-game press conference, but overall the theme was that the Stars brought it and the Preds did not.

“I’ll go back to the fact that I thought they were quicker. We didn’t get it out of our end, they kept their forecheck going and they kept us in our end,” Laviolette said. “I don’t know if it’s a simple game or if it’s a game where we needed more determination.”

It’s hard to disagree with him, but it’s odd considering that the Preds were definitely quicker than the Stars in the 1st. A more apt analysis might be that the Stars “got better as the game went on” or “didn’t make crucial mistakes when it mattered.” But instead Laviolette continued to say “they were quicker than us.”

It makes you wonder about Saturday’s lineup and if we will see some changes.

Defenseman P.K. Subban had a bit more analysis on the game, citing too many penalties and not enough puck battles going the Preds way.

In the end, Laviolette was half-right, especially after the 1st period. From the 2nd period on, the Stars were the faster team. The Preds just didn’t have the speed to get to the outside of the Stars defense. Speed is the only way to beat a neutral zone trap and the Preds just didn’t have it tonight.

Though the series flips in the Stars’ favor, this is still anyone’s series. The Preds showed us enough in the 1st period to prove that they can dominate the ice in this series, if they can just stay consistent.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —

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