NASHVILLE – Six days earlier, Predators forward Brian Boyle went under the knife to have his appendix removed, yet there he was on the Bridgestone Arena ice Saturday, trucking guys with a stitched-up hole in his side.
That’s how important this was, this Game 5 against the Dallas Stars in a tied first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series. And that’s how badly the Preds wanted it. Don’t confuse any of what you’re seeing with a lack of desire.
They knew they needed this one and they got the first goal, another Rocco Grimaldi special, a dazzling gather of a Roman Josi pass and finish past Ben Bishop. They got the first goalie brain buster, Pekka Rinne sprawling to stop Alexander Radulov with the inside of his left leg and then stoning Jamie Benn on the rebound with his right leg — while flat on his back. They got the place shaking right away, a towel-waving ovation during the first media timeout suggesting this would be their day.
And still, they got their butts kicked. And still, the place emptied out quietly. This sobering 5-3 loss was probably the last Nashville Predators hockey it will see until the fall.
Keep Wednesday night open just in case, but honestly, do you think you’ll be watching a Game 7? I think you’ll be resting up for the NFL Draft.
When these teams meet again, Monday for Game 6 in Dallas, the Stars should win and advance because they have the best thing going in this series — the thing that has separated these teams and helped the Stars outplay the Preds in four of give games so far. The top line of Tyler Seguin, Benn and former Predator Radulov is dominating, making an array of Preds look bad at various points and Rinne look helpless as he picks pucks out of his net.
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Credit Dallas coach Jim Montgomery for keeping that trio together after they started the series on different lines, and credit Radulov for his pair of goals Saturday, Seguin for his goal and assist and Benn for his three assists. They are doing to Nashville what Nashville’s top line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson is supposed to do to other teams. They’re why Dallas has 10 goals in the past two games.
But let’s also give the Predators their share of the blame. They’ve earned plenty. Game 5 was not the condensed string of errors that ended Game 4 before first intermission, but it was chock full of them all the same.
The Predators can’t clear the defensive zone. Calle Jarnkrok gets beat to a spot. Jason Dickinson scores.
P.K. Subban has an awful giveaway in the closing seconds of the first period. Seguin gets the puck and has it at the net. Rinne somehow stops it with this right skate.
Forsberg has an awful giveaway in the opening seconds of the second period. Subban can’t recover to Radulov in time. Seguin finds Radulov for an easy one.
Benn and Ryan Ellis race each other for the puck on the boards to Rinne’s right. Benn throws Ellis off like he’s a small child. Benn flips to Radulov in front, with Nick Bonino late, for an easy one.
That one made it 4-2 Stars in the second period, after a nice pass from Forsberg set Johansen up for a goal to briefly restore life to the building. No one’s saying these guys aren’t trying. The Preds trailed 5-2 early in the third when Kyle Turris finally scored a playoff goal, and from there it was max desperation to try to make this a game.
Peter Laviolette is trying, too, switching up his second, third and fourth lines for Saturday’s game while welcoming Boyle back. He has done all he can think of to try to stimulate the worst power play in the NHL. Yet it remains scoreless in this series and his team looked too often Saturday like a collection of strangers on the ice.
Strangers who were supposed to be contenders. Strangers staring at one more night together and then a lot of alone time.
Contact Joe Rexrode at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @joerexrode.