Joel Ward record his first career multi-goal game, including a highlight reel deke move 4:27 into the game, and Dan Ellis made 27 saves for his second shutout of the season to lead the Predators to a 3-0 win over the Dallas Stars at Sommet Center on Saturday night.
Ellis, who improved to 4-2-0 all-time against his former team, has stopped 87-of-90 shots during the month of December for a .967 save percentage and 0.98 goals against average.
The trio of Jason Arnott-J.P. Dumont-Joel Ward were dominant in the first period and their efforts were rewarded when Ward potted his fourth goal of the season with a nifty deke move 4:27 into the game. Dumont started the chance gaining the offensive zone and cutting to the middle of the ice. Ward curled behind Dumont to the right wing. The defensive attention was drawn to Dumont, leaving Ward with half the ice to himself. Dumont slid him the pass and Ward wound up for a big slap shot, but when Dallas netminder Tobias Stephan came out high to challenge the shot, Ward deked and pulled the puck back in, skated around the sprawled goalie and tucked the puck inside the near post.
Ward also had a great chance at a shorthanded goal midway through the second period. He eventually did score his second of the game with an empty net goal at the 18:34 mark of the third period.
The Predators had great chances to extend the lead on each of their next two shifts as Radek Bonk-Jordin Tootoo-Jerred Smithson swarmed around the Dallas net followed on the ensuing shift with great chances from David Legwand from in tight through traffic and Martin Erat with a quick rising shot from the left wing. Erat also created on a shorthanded breakaway with 5:02 remaining in the opening frame, but Stephan made a sprawling pad save to keep the score 1-0 Nashville.
Two minutes into the second period Stephan made a highlight reel glove save sliding from his right to left to rob Greg Zanon on a three-on-one rush.
Not to be out-done, Ellis made several key saves of his own. He made a big shoulder save on a rising blast from Mike Ribeiro with 1:18 left in the first period. On a late second period penalty kill, Ellis made an acrobatic stop on Fabian Brunnstrom and then seconds later turned aside Andrew Hutchinson’s blast from the point through a heavy screen.
Legwand extended the lead to 2-0 at the 12:55 mark of the third period. He took the puck from the right wing corner and made a strong move to the front of the net and slid a shot five-hole for his sixth goal of the season.
Ellis's shutout was the fourth by a Preds goaltender in the last 10 games ... Nashville netminders have allowed two or fewer goals in eight of the past 11 games ... The Predators improved to 4-2-1 in the month of December ... Nashville now has 33 points on the season, 3 points ahead of the pace the team set last season (30 points through 30 games) ... The Predators picked up their 33rd point in Game 34 last season ... With his first period assist, Dan Hamhuis became the third Preds defenseman with at least 10 points this season (Ryan Suter - 18 points, Shea Weber - 25 points).
Post-Game Quotes: Head Coach Barry Trotz On the Predators play in low-scoring games…
“I think we are getting better. Tonight was our fourth shutout in the last 10 games. We haven’t been scoring a ton of goals but when you’re playing fairly good defense that’s going to be key for us.”
Approach in one goal games—focus on defense or scoring another goal…
“When you have the lead, obviously the next goal is really important. When you get the second goal it should, as they say – game, set, match. But at the same time you don’t want to shut it totally down and then you end up on your heels. You still want to be on your toes and aware. You want to be smart and manage the game. You want to manage the puck and not think too far outside the box.”
Dan Ellis expressing relief after the game…
“I think he is like any goaltender. Dan has been playing really well. He’s had some games where he played well and didn’t get the win. I think that’s why he made that kind of statement. Plus he got dinged up and Pekka came in and was goaltender of the week. You always get nervous when that happens. But he’s played very solid since he’s come back, and the same for Pekka. From our standpoint, we have both goaltenders going in the right direction and where we want them to be.”
On Joel Ward’s first goal…
“At first I thought Zanon or their defenseman put it in, then I saw the replay and I thought, ‘Wow, nice goal!’ We’ll probably be seeing that on ESPN later. It was a nice goal and he obviously knew what he was doing. He had his head up, faked the shot, went around and stuck it back door. It was a pretty goal.”
On Legwand’s goal…
“That was a huge goal. Leggy took it to the net and scored. We haven’t gotten a lot of secondary scoring. Everybody has been chipping in here or there. J.P., Arnott, Weber, and our defensemen have been doing a lot of the scoring. Getting the goal last game from Erat, and Legwand tonight, we just need that consistently. That was a huge goal for us and a real good play. It was a real strong play taking it to the net. Good things happen when you put it in the blue paint.”
The Ward-Arnott-Dumont line…
“They complement each other. Ward is a good puck-possession guy and he’s strong on the wall. He’s good defensively and a heavy body. I think he compliments them well. Arnott has been playing a lot and has been consistent. J.P. has been more of playmaker this year. Between the three of them they can have a bit of a puck possession game. They are able to make the small, short plays in between traffic and it works.”
Defenseman Ryan Suter On the flow of the game…
"It was a good game. We had to come out hard and play at the start and just stay with it the whole game. We didn’t try to force things. We just kept it simple and it worked out for us."
On the importance of getting the win before a five-day layoff…
"It was a big game for us. We had lost two or three in a row and it isn’t good to lose that many in a row and we knew he had to have a good game and I’m glad we won. It will make the next couple of days feel a bit better."
On the play of the Preds goaltenders…
"The goaltenders have been playing really well, obviously, but our team has been playing well defensively. That helps them a lot."
Forward J.P. Dumont On the importance of the win…
"It was huge. We had a big week ahead of us a few days ago and we didn’t respond very well. Tonight was a big two points. The teams behind us are winning games and the standings are starting to get clustered for playoff spots. We have to make sure we put a few wins in a row. Tonight was a big effort from everyone and it was a big two points."
On his part in the first goal…
"It was a good play defensively in the zone. It was a good breakout and I cut ahead of the blueline to go two-on-two and Ward came with speed and made a great move. It was a great goal and it gave us some momentum."
On the solid play of his line…
"It’s just our role and we try to accomplish that every night. It’s not going to be easy—we’ve been playing against some really tough lines—but I thought we did really good tonight. We created a few chances and we have to make sure we do that every night."
On the play of Joel Ward…
"He is playing really good. He is playing a really simple game and being strong on the boards. He’s so strong on the puck as well, and it is hard to take the puck away from him. I think right now he is fitting in really well with Arnott and me. "
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