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Jeff Halpern scores in third period as Stars beat Predators 1-0

Smith made 17 saves for his second shutout in his fourth career start in the Stars' 1-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night. "That's what I'm here for, to push (Turco)," said Smith, who improved his record to 4-1 and lowered his goals-against to 1.23. "I'm just trying to be ready to go every night and play like you want to start every game."

Smith was the goalie of record on Monday night, coming on in relief of Turco in the first period; Turco gave up two goals on the first five shots then, but the Stars rallied behind Smith for a 5-4 victory over Colorado.

Teammates were impressed with Smith in the pre-season when he won the backup job, and he has done nothing to change that impression.

"He was good today and he was good the other day," said Stars left winger Niklas Hagman, who assisted on the only goal. "We have a great No. 1 and we have confidence in (Smith). We've got two goalies who give us a chance to win every night."

Smith also had a little luck on his side when David Legwand's shot hit a goalpost with about 10 minutes left.

But overall, Stars coach Dave Tippett was impressed with the rookie goalie.

"He has poise in the net, size in the net," Tippett said. "His puck play outside the net was good. He was solid and gave us a chance to win."

Jeff Halpern broke up the shutout duel at 4:11 of the third period.

Hagman's shot glanced off a defenceman and wide of the net, with the puck pinballing off the end boards and onto the stick of Halpern to the left of the Nashville goal. Halpern popped his third goal of the season into an open net vacated when Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun was late sliding across the crease.

"It was just a good bounce off the boards," Halpern said. "Vokoun was going one way and I came in on the other. The way that game was going, I thought we'd have a shootout."

Vokoun made 25 saves for the Predators, who had been riding a 4-0-1 streak over their previous five games. Vokoun made a big stop on Dallas' Mike Ribeiro from close range with 1:56 left to deny the Stars' bid for a second goal.

Vokoun briefly lost sight of the puck on Halpern's goal.

"It came off the boards and right back out to (Halpern)," Vokoun said. "It's something you really can't prevent. Sometimes you get a good bounce and sometimes you get a bad one. It was just a bad break, but sometimes that's part of hockey."

The Stars are 8-1-1 against the Predators in their last 10 meetings.

"We've had some close games," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We haven't been able to get on the positive side."

Dallas' Mike Modano, playing in his 1,200th career game, was awarded a penalty shot at 6:40 of the first period, but Modano's shot from about 20 feet hit the right goalpost. Modano had gone in on a short-handed breakaway and was held by Nashville captain Kimmo Timonen, resulting in the penalty shot.

Both goalies were perfect over the opening 40 minutes, with Dallas holding a 16-14 shots-on-goal edge heading into the final period.

The Predators were without former Stars centre Jason Arnott, who sustained a right knee injury earlier this week and will miss three to six weeks after arthroscopic surgery.

Notes: The Stars are 4-2 in their last six games. ... Dallas RW Jere Lehtinen missed his fourth straight game due to a leg injury. ... Stars captain Brenden Morrow is also out with a groin injury. Morrow was hurt Monday night and was sitting out his first game. ... Nashville RW J.P. Dumont was helped to the locker room early in the second period after twisting his knee during a scrum in front of the Dallas net, but was back on the ice late in the period. ... Modano is 0-for-4 for his career on penalty shots.


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