The Dallas Stars refused to let a terrible 1-7-1 start ruin their season, and didn’t allow a big early mistake to derail them against the Nashville Predators. After falling behind 2-0 thanks largely to Corey Perry’s ejection, the Stars rallied to beat the Predators 4-2 to win the 2020 Winter Classic.
Plenty of bad blood between Stars and Predators
Perry played a big part in the Dallas Stars falling into a 2-0 hole to begin the game. Mere minutes into the contest, Perry picked Ryan Ellis‘ head with an elbow, getting thrown from the contest.
The Stars made the situation worse by adding a delay of game penalty, and the Predators eventually took advantage with those two goals. That start left most of the crowd of 85,630 — the second largest audience for any NHL game behind only the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium — muttering, if not booing. The Stars made sure that the non-Predators contingent ended up going home happy.
Happy is not the right way to describe the mood on the ice, though.
Perry elbowing Ellis was far from the only violent moment during this outdoor game. Few were safe during the first NHL game of 2020. Notice that even aggressors were wounded, as Radek Faksa showed when he was shaken up following a questionable hit on Mattias Ekholm:
Stars win third in a row
The Stars fired Jim Montgomery not that long ago, throwing Rick Bowness right into the deep end. Bowness inspired early critics, and probably will absorb more gripes as the season goes along. But maybe this Stars team will be able to rally around their unexpected veteran coach more often than not?
Dallas improved to 23-14-4, winning their third game in a row. The Stars put themselves in a decent position to possibly get the Central Division’s third or even second seed with this run.
Instead of caving after Perry put the Stars in a bad position, they rallied. Starting with a Blake Comeau goal with a little bit more than a minute remaining in the second, Dallas rattled off four unanswered goals. After that Comeau goal, the Stars scored their three third-period goals in a 6:14 burst. One cannot help but wonder if the Stars should be more aggressive, more often.
This marks the Stars’ league-leading seventh win after trailing following a second period.
Predators in peril
When the Predators were nursing a 2-0 lead, it seemed like the headlines would be about this being a costly win. Then the Stars erased even that silver lining.
Ryan Ellis left Wednesday’s game and did not return. For a team that needs to make every game count, losing a key defenseman ranks as a brutal blow, especially if Ellis misses extended time.
The Predators saw their losing streak fatten to three games, and now stare down the barrel of a stretch where five of their next six games are on the road. For a team that’s wobbling, could that stretch push them off of a cliff?
Pekka Rinne: “We’re in trouble right now.”
— Robby Stanley (@RStanleyNHL) January 1, 2020
Both teams, especially the Predators, really wanted these two points. The Stars, too, face a tough stretch soon (five of six on the road, beginning on Jan. 8). While the Predators have wilted under pressure — including this afternoon — the Stars keep showing they can roll with all sorts of punches.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.