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Predators shut out Stars on the road

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- For a team that hadn't won on the road since Feb. 5, the Nashville Predators started a five-game road trip in impressive fashion with a 4-0 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night before an announced crowd of 15,661 fans at American Airlines Center.

The Predators, who had been 0-5-1 in their last six road games, got goals from Nick Spaling, Shea Weber, Rich Clune and Gabriel Bourque.

"Well, it gets us off to a good start here," Nashville head coach Barry Trotz said. "Five-on-five, we've been pretty good the last three games. We weren't good early and we hung in there and I liked our resiliency. We needed our special teams to be good and they ended up being pretty good tonight on both ends. But a lot of guys contributed - (Halischuk) went down with the right attitude. I thought he was really good. (Spaling), who was in the center of the lineup, I thought he was pretty good tonight. You just had a lot of people step up."

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was starting his 10th straight game, stopped all 32 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season and 30th of his career. Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 17 of the 21 shots he faced to receive the loss in his fifth straight start.

"I think it was a strong game defensively," Rinne said. "I got a lot of help tonight and a lot of good blocks. (Hannan), (Bartley), (Josi) and (Weber), they all blocked a lot of shots and sacrificed their bodies. It always makes my job easier."

Dallas peppered Rinne early on with Stars winger Erik Cole forcing the Predators netminder to come up with several big saves within a 17-second span early in the first period.

"I think our starts are key," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We did everything right after we were down 2-0, but then we couldn't score. We played soft. We didn't go to the hard areas to score. We didn't force it down their throat. You've got to jam it down their throat, come after them. If you're not going to do that, then you're just fluff."

And after each team went on the power play once midway through the opening 20 minutes, it was the Predators who struck first when Spaling fired a 27-foot wrister over Lehtonen's glove to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at 12:16 of the first period.

The sequence began when Stars rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak lost possession of the puck near center ice. Matt Halischuk, who was recalled from a conditioning assignment with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Monday, stole the puck from Oleksiak and then slipped it over to Spaling, who converted from the left faceoff circle for his fourth of the year.

Nashville then made it a two-goal game when Weber beat Lehtonen with a backhand to his short side just 2:16 into the second period on the power play for his fourth of the year. The Predators had gained the man advantage when Stars rookie defenseman Brenden Dillon was called for tripping Scott Hannan inside the Nashville zone.

Weber collected a rebound off a David Legwand shot from the slot and quickly fired a backhand from inside the right faceoff circle for his first goal in eight games.

Dallas looked to pull one back at 4:37 of the second when Loui Eriksson attempted to slip a 25-foot snap inside the right post. However, Rinne slid over to make a stellar glove save to preserve the two-goal advantage for Nashville.

At 9:09 of the second period, the Predators made it a 3-0 game when Clune scored off a penalty shot. Clune, who had finished serving a two-minute penalty for roughing 11 seconds earlier, gained possession of the puck near center ice and dashed toward the Dallas goal on a breakaway when he was hooked by Stars rookie defenseman Jordie Benn at the far post to earn the penalty shot.

Clune then advanced up the left side of the ice before beating Lehtonen through the five-hole with a nine-foot wrister for his third goal in seven games. It was Nashville's first penalty shot since Martin Erat scored off one in a 4-2 win at Anaheim on Nov. 9, 2011.

"Actually in junior my last year, I went 4-for-4 in shootouts in Barrie, which might surprise a few people," Clune said. "I was kind of thinking shot the whole way. The ice is a little chippy here in Dallas, so I didn't want to deke and fumble on the puck."

The Stars generated another chance with 3:14 left before the second break when Rinne was pulled away from the crease with a great pass by Ray Whitney from the left circle to Trevor Daley, who was just inside the right circle. However, Daley's shot was deflected and the game remained 3-0.

Nashville lost center Paul Gaustad to an upper-body injury after the second period and he did not return.

"Right now, we're just evaluating that," Trotz said of Gaustad's status after the game. "We may fly him back tomorrow. We'll have our doctors look at him and see where we're at there."

Late in the third, the game got ugly with several fights, including a major one that saw Weber and Dallas' Antoine Roussel each earn 10-minute misconduct penalties. On the ensuing power play, Bourque lifted a rebound off a Legwand shot into the top of the Dallas net to make it 4-0. Oleksiak also earned a 10-minute misconduct with 2:45 remaining after trying to start another fight.

"Yeah, guys responded well," Rinne said of how chippy the game became late. "I'm sure it was a little bit of frustration from the Dallas side. Guys stepped it up and responded. I think we played just a solid team game."

Nashville will continue its road trip Thursday night at Vancouver while Dallas continues its four-game homestand Thursday against Anaheim.

NOTES: Tuesday's game marked the start of a five-game road trip for Nashville. That is not the Predators' longest road trip of the season, as Nashville went 4-2-1 on a seven-game road trip between Jan. 22 and Feb. 5. ... Before the game, Dallas honored Bill Guerin, who played 216 games for the Stars over three seasons. During his 18-year NHL career, Guerin won Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins. ... Center Tomas Vincour skated on the Stars' third line alongside Antoine Roussel and Loui Eriksson just one day after being recalled from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. ... Dallas was shut out for the first time in 16 games, since a 2-0 loss at Phoenix on Feb. 2.

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