DALLAS (WTVF) — Peter Laviolette gave the warning after game three: “you give that team enough opportunities, they’ll take advantage of it.”
The Predators had played with fire for three games in this series, committing 14 penalties only to be bailed out by a penalty kill that stopped Dallas from cashing in on all but one of its power plays. But Wednesday night in game four the house caught on fire when four penalties in the first 12:03 turned into four goals on eight shots.
And the rout was on. A 5-1 Stars win evening this series at a game a piece as it shifts back to Nashville for game five Saturday afternoon.
It was only a matter of time before the Stars would get going if the Predators didn’t clean up their act. Laviolette said it was about, “being responsible for our actions within a playoff series.”
The Predators seemed disinterested in that Wednesday. Mattias Ekholm, seemingly a marked man by officials in this series, picked up the first of his two high-sticking penalties just 3:01 into the game. Just 41 seconds later Roope Hintz beat Pekka Rinne for a 1-0 brought a sold out American Airlines Center crowd to its feet.
The bad start got worse. Filip Forsberg flipped a cross ice pass into the stands for delay of game and Alexander Radulov scored another power play goal 27 seconds later.
Rinne gave up a rebound on a Blake Comeau shot that Andrew Cogliano pounded home and then Mats Zuccarello set up shop in the slot, ripping a wrister for the Stars third power play goal.
It was 4-0 and Rinne was headed to the bench after just 13:45, two nights after he looked almost impenetrable while stopping 40 of the 42 shots against him.
Not that the blame should really be placed on Rinne. The guys in front of him talked about the need to play better, and instead turned in a performance that would’ve been comically bad if it wasn’t a playoff game.
And that’s maybe the most frustrating part. This is just who this year’s Predators team is. The frustrating inconsistency from the regular season has carried into the playoffs and led to the ultimate stink bomb.
The Predators are more talented than the Stars on paper and still should probably win this series. But Dallas has been the better team in three of the four games played so far, and if it wasn’t for Rinne’s spectacular game three the series ledger would be reading 3-1 Stars.
The Predators will get a boost from getting back in front of their rowdy crowd Saturday for the first game of what now becomes a best of three series. But most importantly the Preds need to find the game they’ve been searching for seemingly all season long.
It didn’t come with a flip of the switch when the playoffs began. And now time is running out.