Now, home-ice advantage in the playoffs is at risk.
Stu Barnes and Mike Modano each had a goal and an assist, and the Dallas Stars got revenge where it counted Saturday night by beating the Predators 4-2.
Nashville came in needing a victory to pass Detroit and move back atop the Central Division and West standings while tying Buffalo for the NHL lead. But Dallas handed the Predators their second straight loss overall and fourth in six games.
The Predators lead fifth-place Dallas, which has a game in hand, by only three points with three to play.
“You let up a little bit and teams keep playing well, the next thing you know you’re sliding down the pole,” Nashville centre Jason Arnott said. “This time of year is the toughest.
“We just have to bounce back and come together as a group and try to win as many as we can from now until the end.”
But there was more to this game than playoff positioning.
This marked the first time these teams had met since March 17 when Predators forward Jordin Tootoo decked Stephane Robidas, knocking him out with an unexpected gloved punch. That drew a five-game suspension for Tootoo, a ban that ended Saturday, and Robidas has missed seven games since.
Modano said there was a bit more tension.
“The refs did a great job,” he said of officials who put Tootoo in the box three times.
Dallas, four points behind Pacific Division-leader Anaheim, scored three goals within 6:17 late in regulation to force overtime Friday before beating Detroit in a shootout 4-3.
The Stars didn’t wait that long against Nashville. Jeff Halpern and Jussi Jokinen each had goals within the first five minutes for Dallas, which improved to 10-1-1 over its past 12 games.
“We knew it was going to be a hostile environment,” Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. “But you know what?
“That is what makes the game fun. If you are the visiting team coming in here, that’s a lot of fun . . . If you do play well, you can shut a lot of people up.”
Greg Zanon and Alexander Radulov scored a goal apiece for Nashville, which still trails Detroit by a point with three to play. The Red Wings will host Columbus on Sunday.
These teams could face each other in the first round of the playoffs. That wouldn’t be good for Nashville. Dallas took the season series 3-1 and has won 20-of-32 meetings between these teams.
“This might be a great wake-up call,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of the loss.
Halpern started the scoring early when Barnes’ shot deflected off his right skate at the front of the crease at 2:01 of the first period. An official immediately waved off the goal, where Halpern looked like he might have kicked at it. But Dallas was awarded the goal on review.
Jokinen made it 2-0 when he took a pass from Modano, skated up the slot and beat a sliding Nashville player before flipping the puck past Tomas Vokoun’s glove at 4:46. Barnes deflected a shot from Mattias Norstrom at 13:21.
The Predators took only four shots in the period, and Greg Zanon’s shot from the blue-line at 6:25 at least got them on the board.
They looked flat and outplayed until they killed off a two-minute, 5-on-3 that started less than a minute into the second period after Tootoo picked up his second penalty for diving and joined Zanon in the box.
Once the penalties were killed off, the sellout crowd gave the Predators a standing ovation.
Radulov set a Nashville rookie record for most goals with his 17th. It came off a flurry he started by skating down before being stopped by Marty Turco, and Radulov scored on a backhand shot at 13:53 of the second.
“We knew they weren’t going to go away, and we were going to continue working as hard as we could,” Turco said.
Modano sealed the victory midway through the third when he scored his 21st goal after Nashville defenceman Shea Weber failed to clear the puck.
Notes: Modano has 15 points in his past 13 games with nine goals and six assists. … Nashville, which couldn’t sell out playoff games last season, sold out its first game Saturday within hours of tickets going on sale for Game 1. … Dallas went 0-for-4 on the power play, snapping a 12-game streak with at least one goal with the man advantage.