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Dan Ellis makes 27 saves as Predators blank the Stars 3-0

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Dan Ellis had been posting some solid statistics, but wasn't doing much in terms of winning hockey games.

He did both Saturday night.

Ellis made 27 saves, and Joel Ward scored twice in the Nashville Predators' 3-0 victory over the Dallas Stars. Ellis has two shutouts in his last six games, but the other one was a 1-0 shootout loss to St. Louis on Nov. 25.

"My win-loss record stinks," said Ellis, 9-11-3 this season. "The last few games have been frustrating for our team because we were playing strong and we didn't get anything out of it or we only got one point.

"I have to find ways to help the team and contribute a little bit more. I might have had some decent games, but I wasn't helping in terms of the standings. It's nice to be able to get two points, especially on home ice."

Ellis has eight career shutouts, two against the Stars - the team that originally drafted him. Predators coach Barry Trotz thinks that Ellis is relieved to be back in a rhythm in net after some struggles.

"Dan has had some games where he has played well and didn't get the win," said Trotz. "Plus, he got dinged up and Pekka Rinne came in and was goaltender of the week. You always get nervous when that happens.

"But Dan has played very solid since he has come back, and the same can be said of Pekka. From our standpoint, we have both goaltenders going in the right direction and where we want them to be."

Ward had his first career multi-goal game in the NHL, and David Legwand also scored to help the Predators end a three-game losing streak.

Ward skated in from the right side and faked a shot to draw Stars goalie Tobias Stephan out of the net. Ward then backhanded a shot that went into the goal behind Stephan's back at the 4:27 mark of the first period.

"I was a little over-aggressive at the start," said Stephan, who stopped 35 shots - 14 in the first period. "My job is to get myself ready. I was trying to be really calm and patient. It was a tough start, but after that it was the right game. We just couldn't score."

Ward has spent much of the season on the same line with Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, two of the leading points producers for the Predators.

"Joel is a good puck possession guy," Trotz said. "He is strong on the wall. He is good defensively. Arnott has been really consistent and J.P has been one of our bigger play makers.

"They can play a puck possession game. They are all three able to make those short plays between traffic. It works."

Legwand scored at 7:05 of the third period. He skated in front of the goalmouth and put a shot between Stephan's pads.

"That was a huge goal," Trotz said. "Legwand took it to the net. It was a real strong play. Good things happen when you take it to the net."

Ward scored an empty-net goal with 1:26 left.

"It was a big game for me," Ward said. "I was a little lucky with that second one. It was nice as a team to score more than one goal in a game. We are definitely getting good goal tending and the defence is playing well. If everyone can chip in scoring it will definitely be a bonus for us."

For the Stars, who are dealing with several holes in their lineup, the effort was disappointing, especially on the heels of their 3-1 win over Detroit on Friday night.

The game marked the end of Sean Avery's suspension for making an off-colour remark. The Stars have said it won't make any announcement about his future with the team until the conclusion of his six-game ban.

"They're valuable points," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "I don't care who is in your lineup, you have to find ways to win. We didn't push hard enough. We didn't have any difference makers."

Notes: Ward ended a streak of 13 games without a goal. ... RW Jordin Tootoo was back in action for the Predators after missing two games because of a lower-body injury. ... The Stars are 1-6-0 in the second half of back-to-back games this season. ... The Predators are 8-0 when leading after the first period.



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