NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Dallas Stars’ youth movement is paying off quickly and might lead the club to an improbable playoff berth.
Rookie Alex Chiasson scored two goals, and the Stars beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Friday night for their fourth straight win, despite trading away Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Brenden Morrow before last week’s deadline.
Ray Whitney had a power-play goal and an assist, and Erik Cole and Tom Wandell had a goal apiece. Vern Fiddler also had two assists for the Stars, who are ninth in the Western Conference—two points behind eighth-place Detroit and the post-season cutoff. Dallas is tied in points with Phoenix and Columbus.
“Leading up to the trade deadline, we certainly were the focus of a lot of attention,” Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. “And obviously everyone knows what happened the last couple weeks. The guys have felt that people have written them off, and we haven’t liked that very much. We just keep playing for each other in that locker room.”
Richard Bachman stopped 26 shots and improved to 5-3. He started in place of Kari Lehtonen, who was scratched because of a lower body injury. Bachman said he will be ready if needed Saturday at home against San Jose.
“This time of year, whether it’s back-to-back or three in three, you get yourself ready to play because it’s life or death for us right now,” Bachman said.
Taylor Beck and Bobby Butler scored for Nashville, which has lost five straight and eight of nine.
Dallas also snapped a four-game skid against Nashville and avoided being swept this season by their future division rival.
The Predators are trying to stay in the playoff race despite forwards Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad and Gabriel Bourque already being set for season-ending operations. Mike Fisher and Brandon Yip also were scratched because of injuries.
Nashville also gave goalie Pekka Rinne a break after he started 25 straight games, putting Chris Mason in net for the first time since Feb. 18.
“We’ve rode Pekka all the way here,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “We got three games in four nights, and trying to get Pekka a little bit of a breather.”
Nashville has missed the playoffs only once in the past eight seasons, back in 2008-09. All the injuries have resulted in several players being called up from the Milwaukee of the AHL. Predators captain Shea Weber sounded frustrated after the game and said everyone has to take care of himself.
“I can’t go around babysitting the other guys,” said Weber, who had a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from Philadelphia matched by Nashville last July. “It’s a personal thing. At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say you are playing your hardest and you are doing everything you can to help the team win.”
The Stars jumped on Nashville early, going up 1-0 when Cole’s slap shot out near the blue line beat Mason at 6:59 of the first period. The Stars scored on two of their first three shots. Whitney netted a power-play goal with a one-timer from the left side at 8:40.
It could have been worse for the Predators, but Cole knocked the puck off the crossbar before Whitney whiffed on the rebound during Dallas’ second man advantage of the period.
Nashville scored a power-play goal after Brenden Dillon went into the penalty box for interference at 17:54. Beck tapped the puck past Bachman at 18:42 after it went off Patric Hornqvist’s skate from the other side of the net.
Dallas took control for good by scoring twice in the second. Wandell scored his first goal of the season on a tip-in at 2:28 for a 3-1 lead as the Stars caught Nashville on a line change. Nick Spaling just missed wide right before Chiasson scored from in front, beating Mason between the pads.
Chiasson netted his second of the game and fifth of his career unassisted at 7:03 of the third.
“Playing with those two guys makes it a lot easier on me,” Chiasson said of Whitney and Jamie Benn. “I’m just playing confident right now, that’s for sure. I’m just going day by day and seeing where it goes.”
Nashville outshot Dallas 28-18 and showed some fight as Butler scored from the left circle on a wrister that bounced in off the post at 12:12. The Predators thought they got closer but an official immediately waved off the would-be goal because Rich Clune kicked in the puck.
NOTES: The Stars are 6-0 in Friday games. … Stars LW Eric Nystrom played in his 400th career NHL game. … Fiddler has two goals and seven assists in his last five games. … Prospect Filip Forsberg, a trade-deadline pickup from Washington, is expected to play in the Predators’ final five games. … Nashville’s Sergei Kostitsyn was given a major penalty and was ejected for boarding Stars RW Matt Fraser with 3:29 left. Gulutzan said Fraser was fine after the game.