By Ron Wynn
The Dallas Stars took advantage of a penalty-filled first period to score a quick pair of power play goals and never look back Wednesday night, defeating the Nashville Predators 5-1 and evening their first round Stanley Cup playoff series at 2-2 in Dallas. Pekka Rinne had displayed his Vezina Trophy form of last year in Games 2 and 3, but found the going rough in Game 4. He allowed four goals on eight shots in less than 14 minutes and was replaced by Juuse Saros, However the consensus was he didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates, in particular the penalty-killing unit.
The Predators had killed off 12 of 13 penalties in the first three games, but the Stars scored three times on four power plays in the first period, putting Nashville in a 4-0 hole it was unable to overcome. “Our kill, which has been so solid for a couple of months now, you never want to see three go in like that,” the Predators Nick Bonino told the Associated Press. “They made some nice plays. They picked some corners. That’s going to happen.”
Roope Hintz and former Predator Alexander Radulov scored the first two power play goals. Hintz had two goals, the second making the score 5-0 in the second period. Andrew Cogliano and Mats Zuccarello had the other goals for the Stars, who also got three assists from John Klingberg. Roman Josi’s goal at the eight minute mark of the third period prevented a shutout. But the story was the Stars’ power play success. It was the first game all season that the Predators surrendered three power play goals in a period, or trailed 4-0 after the opening 20 minutes.
“I don’t think any of the first three (goals) were Pek’s fault,” Predators head coach Peter Laviolette added. “He’s played fantastic to this point. “Hard to fault (Rinne) on those goals and those situations, the circumstances and situations we put him in.” Dallas goalie Ben Bishop had been criticized for allowing a pair of questionable goals in Game 3, but was sharp Wednesday night with 34 saves. Saros kept Dallas off the scoreboard after Hintz’s second goal, but it’s widely expected that Rinne will be back in net for Game 5 Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. He’s started 87 consecutive Predators’ playoff games.
“It’s frustrating when you’re geared up to win a hockey game, and you look up and it’s 4-0 on the board with five minutes to go in the period,” Laviolette added. “You’re battling back at the point, and the frustration is easy to let into the game.” This was also the first blowout of the series. No one anticipates there being more, given how tightly these teams battled during the regular season, and the closeness of the prior three games. Game 6 will be in Dallas Monday night.