“Dallas P.D.? Yes, I’d like to report a theft. Pekka Rinne robbed the Dallas Stars of a Game 3 win and a series lead. The culprit was last seen at the American Airlines Center. What’s that? This line is for emergencies only? Oh okay. So sorry. Bye”


-Pekka Rinne deserves all the credit for this win. Hockey is a team sport, but not last night. A supreme individual effort from Rinne is the only reason that the Predators didn’t lose that game 8-3. Rinne was locked in, and he made some insane saves. The Stars fired 42 shots on Rinne, and he turned away 40. In the third period alone, Rinne saw 13 high-danger scoring chances. He thwarted all but one. In other words, the Stars were ramming the puck down the Preds’ throat and Rinne was the human Heimlich maneuver that kept them from choking.

-The big man between the pipes made countless big saves throughout the game, but two really stand out. One came late in the first period when Miro Heiskanen was allowed to cruise down main street. The rookie defenseman tried to shelf his shot, but Rinne got the blocker up in time to knock it away. I don’t have video of that one, but I do have video of the best save Rinne made all night, which is saying something. Immediately after Dallas had tied the game at 2-2, the Preds went right back to pissing themselves. Rinne would not let that happen. After a brutal turnover right in front of Rinne, Seguin found a wide open Benn on the back door. I had already let out a groan assuming that he would score, but you know what they say about assuming. Rinne slid across and committed grand larceny with his pad as he kept the game tied.

-That was about as stressful as a game can get for a goaltender, but Peks still kept it loosey goosey after the game when talking to NBC’s Joe Micheletti.

-Pekka Rinne. Not the hero we deserve, but the one we need right now.

-The penalty kill was perfect again on Monday as it killed off all four of Dallas’ power plays, including a lengthy 5-on-3. How? See: Rinne, Pekka.

-The Predators got off to another solid start but had nothing to show for it. At one point, the shots on goal were 8-1 in favor of Nashville with several solid scoring chances. I liked their game early on, but things really deteriorated in the second period. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Predators had eight high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the first period but just three the rest of the game. More of the first period and way less of the latter two periods.

-Rocco Grimaldi continues to be a Stars killer as he had his second goal in as many games played this series. Now, he got some help from Ben Bishop, but he was able to get the puck on net from a tough angle. The Preds struggled to get the puck on net from any angle, so Grimaldi gets points for that and for being shot out of a cannon every time he races down ice on the forecheck. He has been brilliant in both games he’s played in and should stay in the lineup for the rest of the playoffs.

-The JoFA line hasn’t had the biggest impact on the scoresheet in this series, and Game 3 was probably their worst game as a whole. However, they still find ways to make big plays even on an off night. Case in point: Filip Forsberg’s goal. Nick Bonino just flung the puck down ice and Forsberg raced after it. Using his telekinetic powers, Forsberg corralled the puck, turned the corner on a grossly overmatched Roman Polak, and beat a helpless Bishop for the goal.

-Mikael Granlund has gotten a raw deal since being traded to Nashville. He found out he was being traded on the day his wife was giving birth to their first child, he didn’t have consistent linemates for most of his first few weeks in Nashville, and he wasn’t getting rewarded for doing some good things late in the regular season. It’s real easy to shit on a guy when he doesn’t look his best (looking at you, Stillman) and completely forget the human element, but Granlund likely hasn’t gotten comfortable here yet. Was Game 3 his best game? No. Was it anybody’s best game not named Pekka? Also no. However, Granny finally got a bounce. Much like Grimaldi did, he just fired a puck on net. This time there was some traffic in front, but again it kicked off Bishop’s blocker and in.


-In just about every aspect of this game, the Predators got absolutely railroaded. Once Nashville took a 2-0 lead, it was all Dallas the rest of the way. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Stars owned 59.26% of the shot attempts, 62.5% of the scoring chances, and 67.65% of the high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5. In the third period, those numbers are even worse. Dallas had massive edges in shot attempts (25-9), scoring chances (20-3), and high-danger scoring chances (13-0). Those are all the signs of an ass whipping. If you covered up the final score and looked at those numbers, you wouldn’t think these two teams played in the same league.

-Things began to tilt heavily in Dallas’ favor when the Predators took two penalties in short order to put themselves in a situation to have to kill off a 5-on-3. After that, Nashville was treading water. Once the tide turns against you in the second period, it’s hard to turn the tables back in your direction. The Predators got stuck defending, and their only option was to dump the puck down ice when they did get possession. Then Dallas knew they could turn up the heat and press when they retrieved the puck because of the long line changes in the second period. It became a game of dump the puck, change lines, and get back on defense for the Predators. It resulted in Nashville losing all of its flow through the neutral zone and on offense, and it eventually cost them.

-Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis both went up on a rush with no one back to cover for them. Nashville’s shot missed the net well wide and gave an easy breakout to the Stars, who found Mats Zuccarello all alone at Nashville’s blue line. He broke in and beat Rinne for the Stars’ first goal.

-I was hoping the Predators would shift from their heels to their toes in the third period, but my naivety apparently knows no bounds. The Predators stayed on their heels and had no cohesive zone exits at all. It was brutal to watch. It was more of those damn sky-high flip passes into the neutral zone, dump-and-change, or icing. Here is a great stat from George Matarangas of Penalty Box Radio.

-This chipping it out of the zone garbage is frustrating as hell. The Predators have the skill to use short passes and weave their way out of the defensive zone, through the neutral zone, and into the offensive zone. Instead, they would rather just fling the puck into an area and chase after it. John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen are too good to be beaten that way. The Predators have to adjust.

-Of course, part of this dominance is a credit to the Stars. In the third period, Benn, Seguin, and Radulov seemed like they were on the ice at all times. Those three did most of the damage for Dallas. Those three combined for 13 of Dallas’ 23 high-danger chances. No other Star had more than two. That line, along with Heiskanen and Klingberg, at Nashville alive. The Predators simply had no answer, and that resulted in Dallas’ second goal. P.K. Subban was tied up with Alex Radulov behind the net, Kyle Turris lost a puck battle with Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin was left alone on the back door for a tap in goal.

-Part of the issue in the Stars’ big guns wrecking the Predators, I believe, is how Peter Laviolette has chosen his matchups. Now, I’m not a coach who has led three different teams to a Cup Final, but I’m gonna throw my two cents out anyway. Stop trying to put the Bonino-Sissons-Watson line out against Dallas’ big three. That’s doing too much. Colton Sissons and Nick Bonino had nearly equal ice time as Forsberg and Arvidsson. Yes, the Predators were on the kill quite a bit, but Arvi kills penalties too. That shouldn’t be happening. JoFA was your golden goose all year long. Don’t be afraid to roll them out in any situation. Stop chasing matchups and just play your best players.

-Special teams played into Dallas’ hands because the Predators let that happen. Sure a couple of the calls against Nashville weren’t particularly strong, but the Preds have given Dallas 10 power plays in the last two games. When your own power play can’t shoot its way out of a paper bag, that’s a bad idea. The penalty kill Pekka has been strong of late, but keep playing with fire at your own risk.

The Ugly

-All Ben Bishop had to do was not choke to death and Dallas wins this game. Instead, he turned in one of the worst performances of his career. The Predators beat him twice on the same shot — throw it blocker side and let him knock it into his own net. It was a stunningly bad game for Bishop and a stunningly great break for the Predators. What will be interesting on Wednesday is seeing how long a leash Bishop has after this showing. Hopefully the Predators tug on that leash enough to see how long it is.

-Apparently, a Stars fan was doing/saying something to Austin Watson while he was in the penalty box. Peter Laviolette was having exactly NONE of that.

-Watson declined to say what was said or done, but it had to be pretty bad for Lavy to explode like that. Now, without knowing what exactly happened, the simple explanation for this fan’s poor behavior is that nearly all of these fans are primarily Cowboys fans. That should tell you all you need to know about the folks in the AAC.

To Sum It Up

At this time of year, you take a win and don’t look back. No matter whether it’s ugly, pretty, or somewhere in between the result is all that matters. That said, every Predator except Pekka Rinne needs to be markedly better on Wednesday or this series lead will evaporate very quickly. If Nashville plays real actual hockey and not the on-ice equivalent of badminton in Game 4, the Preds may be trying to burn up the Stars’ playoff lives on 4/20.