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Stars look like playoff team in beating young Predators

The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators looked like teams headed in the same direction when both traded key players for prospects earlier in the month. After Friday night, that may not be the case.

Dallas, which ended Friday night just one point behind Detroit for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, took a big step in the right direction by beating Nashville, 5-2, at the Bridgestone Arena.

Alex Chiasson scored a pair of goals for Dallas and Ray Whitney added a goal and an assist for the Stars (20-17-3), who have now won four games in a row.

Chiasson, a rookie who made his debut on April 3, has now scored five times in five games.

"If you just watch him, he does a lot of little things right. He's a big body, he's got the tools that translate real well into the NHL. ... He's got smarts, and he's playing with two real good players, and that helps, too, but he's got the details in his game that make him effective, too," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said later.

Both teams have had trouble scoring lately, but with backup goalies starting for both teams, it made life a little easier for both offenses. Dallas didn't take long to get started, as Erik Cole slapped a shot over Chris Mason's shoulder and into the net at the 6:04 mark of the first.

Just over two minutes later, the Stars struck again when Whitney took a cross-ice pass from Alex Goligoski and slammed one past Mason for a 2-0 lead on what was just the Stars' third shot of the game.

The Predators hadn't even gotten off a shot by the time Dallas had that two-goal lead. However, on Nashville's first power play of the evening, Taylor Beck picked up a loose puck in front of the net and got it past Richard Bachman to cut the lead in half at 18:42 of the first.

Dallas got that goal back at 2:28 of the second when Ryan Garbutt got behind the defense on the right side and slid the puck over Tom Wandell, stationed right in front of Mason, who easily put it away for the first goal of his season.

"We were actually playing okay in the second, and then (there was) a change and they got the puck up very quick and they were able to capitalize," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "It took a little steam out of us."

At 11:12 later in the period, Chiasson slipped behind two Predators defenders, got right in front of Mason's nose, and took a perfect pass from Whitney to score for a 4-1 lead. At 7:03 of the third, Chiasson, at the top of the right circle, snuck one under Mason's legs for an unassisted goal.

"The fourth goal, we just can't have that," Trotz said.

Former Predator Vernon Fiddler had a pair of assists on the first two goals for Dallas, which might now regret trading Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy away last week. The Stars have eight games remaining -- four at home, four on the road -- to Detroit's seven.

"Leading up to the trade deadlines, certainly we were the focus of a lot of attention," Gulutzan said. "Obviously everybody knows what happened, but the last couple of weeks, the guys have felt that we've written them off, and we haven't liked that very much, and we just keep playing for each other in that locker room."

Nashville's Bobby Butler added a late goal, but it was too little, too late for the Predators (15-19-8).

Outside of those two goals, Nashville fans had little to make noise about. The Predators, who recently traded away veteran Martin Erat, have lost five straight, and have just 38 points with six games to play.

Fans took out their frustrations on Mason, with some booing the veteran after that fifth goal, which came on Dallas' 14th shot. Another smattering came as the final horn sounded.

Ironically, the Predators out-shot Dallas, 28-18, and in many cases seemed to have better opportunities. But Nashville's makeshift front lines, which include three forwards recalled from Milwaukee within the last month, consistently couldn't cash in.

"You're not going to have a lot of success in games with guys that are maybe playing in their first or second game in the league against a superstar, or a guy like Vernon Fiddler, who's a veteran player. He's got 600 games under his belt. He's a man. ... That's probably not a fair thing for the young men," Trotz said.

Bachman, recalled from Texas on Jan. 27, has now picked up wins in his last three games. He spoke to how the Stars were able to win big despite the shot discrepancy.

"I've been on the other end of that, where we've let in some goals. We made some nice plays. I don't think we got the puck a ton to the net -- obviously, you can see the shot count -- but the ones we did were nice plays." Bachman said.

NOTES: Nashville center Mike Fisher, the team's third-leading scorer, was again a scratch. Fisher hurt his hand March 28 and has played two games since, the last coming April 6. Fisher was joined by right-wing Brandon Yip, center Paul Gaustad and left wing Gabriel Bourque, further hampering the league's second-worst scoring attack. ... For Dallas, starting goalie Kari Lehtonen (lower body injury) was scratched after suffering what the Stars termed a "lower body injury" against Los Angeles on Tuesday. ... The Stars' Antoine Roussel and Nashville's Rich Clune dropped the gloves in the first period. Each drew five-minute penalties for fighting.
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