Johansen scores 43 seconds into OT, Preds beat Stars 3-2
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators know they might well end up seeing Dallas in the first round of the playoffs, and that made protecting home ice even more crucial after a loss here to the Stars only six days ago.
Ryan Johansen scored 43 seconds into overtime and the Predators beat the Stars 3-2 on Thursday night for their second straight win and a little cushion in the Central Division.
“They’ve been playing some very good hockey lately, and we’re not going to let that happen anymore, especially in our building,” Johansen said.
Juuse Saros made 27 saves to improve to 14-6-1, with wins in six of his last seven starts.
Viktor Arvidsson had a goal and an assist, and Craig Smith also scored for Nashville, which evened the season series at 2-2-0 and pushed the second-place Predators’ lead to nine points over the Stars in the division.
Taylor Fedun and Miro Heiskanen scored for Dallas, which ended its season-high five-game winning streak.
Saros made a pad save on Alexander Radulov with 1:38 left in regulation, and Nashville had a chance late with Johansen’s shot from the slot wide.
Johansen made up for that with his winner with a wrister from the inside edge of the right circle set up by a pass from Arvidsson.
“Great individual play there,” Johansen said of his linemate. “We were kind of looping and swooping waiting for some space. Even when he got it down in the corner, it was bobbling and he had to make a good play and he put it right in my wheelhouse. It’s good to finish it off.”
Nashville had a lot on the line, wanting revenge after a 3-1 loss to the Stars last weekend.
“It’s good to get a win just because they’ve beaten us the last two times,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said of the Stars. “They’re playing well right now.”
The Predators also debuted forwards Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod after a pair of trades Wednesday , and center Kyle Turris returned after missing the last 17 games because of an injury. The 6-foot-6 Boyle immediately joined the top power-play unit, planting himself in front of the net, and McLeod just missed on a scoring chance in the second.
Khudobin came in having allowed only one goal in Dallas’ last two wins over Nashville, and he robbed Kevin Fiala on a 2-on-1 with a great glove save in the first period. But the Predators finally beat the goalie by literally scoring off him. Fiala’s shot deflected off Smith’s back over the net and bounced off Khudobin’s back and in at 17:48 of the period.
“That was the easiest goal I’ve scored,” Smith said. “We’re doing a lot of the right things. I thought we made some good plays. You’re going to have to make enough good plays to get good looks. I thought we did that. We got rewarded with an easy one.”
The Stars tied it up twice in the third to set up the final game of the season series Feb. 19 in Dallas. Heiskanen tied it up at 3:05, and Fedun tied it at quickly after Arvidsson’s goal put Nashville up 2-1. In between, defenseman Roman Polak swept the puck away from the goal line after Colton Sissons’ slap shot went off Khudobin’s stick.
“We’re coming out and believing that we can win games, and we put ourselves in a really good situation tonight,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. “We got a point and we got five out of six points in this rink against a really good hockey team.”
NOTES: Nashville improved to 24-3-1 when scoring first. ... Buffalo Beauts goalie Shannon Szabados was at the game ahead of the NWHL All-Star Game here Sunday. ... Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer and football coach Jeremy Pruitt were at the game.
Stars: Visit Arizona on Saturday.
Predators: Visit St. Louis on Saturday afternoon.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker