NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Craig Smith has a knack for timely goals in the playoffs, and he helped the Nashville Predators avoid a very big hole heading to Dallas.
Smith scored five minutes into overtime to give the Predators a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday, tying the first-round Western Conference series at 1-1.
The puck popped out around his feet, and he scored his first this postseason from the inside edge of the left circle. That goal snapped a three-game playoff skid on home ice for Nashville.
“We need people to step up when you’re in a situation like that and you’re down by a game in a series and you get into overtime,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “You can just weight the two results, and we needed to get a win and we needed somebody. And it was really good for Craig.”
That was the first postseason overtime goal of Smith’s career, and the third winner of his career in the playoffs. That ties him for the most in Predators’ history, and Smith said it probably was one of his biggest goals.
“It was kind of a delayed reaction,” Smith said. “I think (Stars defenseman Roman) Polak knocked it down and I just tried to get a stick on it and tried to feather it in there. I don’t know how it got through but able to just get a stick on something and get some traffic and get it in there.”
Rocco Grimaldi also scored for Nashville, and Pekka Rinne made 22 saves. The Predators had lost five of their last six postseason games in the place they call Smashville.
Jamie Benn scored for Dallas The Stars were outshot 43-23.
“We knew we were going to get Nashville’s best and we did,” Dallas coach Jim Montgomery said. “And you know they were the better team tonight, and probably not for Bish (goalie Ben Bishop) we’re not in overtime. So we got to come back and we will. We’ll be better.”
Game 3 is Monday night in Dallas.
The teams went to overtime twice during their five-game series during the regular season, and Dallas won the opener 3-2. So it was no surprise they went past regulation yet again.
The Stars went 0 of 6 on the man advantage after being the NHL’s 11th-best on the power play during the regular season.
After losing Game 1, the Predators came into this game having lost five of their last six playoff games on home ice. The Stars came in trying to join both St. Louis and Columbus as road teams taking a 2-0 advantage back home.
The teams fought to the first scoreless period of this young series to open this game, though the Predators killed a four-minute penalty on a double minor to Mattias Ekholm and outshot Dallas 15-9.
Dallas took the lead at 1:59 of the second when Tyler Seguin got the puck off a turnover, passed to Benn at the side of the net for the captain’s first goal this postseason.
Stars center Mattias Janmark went straight to the locker room after a collision with Predators’ defenseman Dan Hamhuis into the boards. Janmark was down for a couple minutes before being helped off the ice at 3:10, putting no weight on his left leg. Janmark managed to return later in the game.
Nashville tied it at 3:56, with Grimaldi scoring over Bishop’s glove from right in front off a pass from Austin Watson. It was the first postseason goal in Grimaldi’s third career playoff game and first with Nashville, and he got the call Saturday morning that he was in the lineup with forward Brian Boyle out sick.
“It’s a huge goal for him personally too,” Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne said. “First playoff goal, obviously a big moment, tied the game. I think it’s a huge booster anytime he cracks in the lineup. He’s always one of the bright lights out there. Again, he did a really good job.”
The Predators also lost forward Wayne Simmonds in the first period after he took a one-timer from teammate Roman Josi off the inside of his left knee. He later tested his leg taking a lap during a TV timeout before going back to the locker room.
In the third, Rinne smothered a shot from Seguin off a pass from Alexander Radulov in the opening minutes. Stars center Jason Dickinson hit the top right corner of the post 5:24 in.
“We had a chance, we played pretty good tonight,” Bishop said. “So obviously it goes to overtime, it’s anybody’s game and unfortunately they got it and just get ready for Game 3 now.”
NOTES: The Predators improved to 5-2 at home in Game 2 all-time with their first home playoff win since Game 2 of their second-round series last spring against Winnipeg. Nashville improved to 8-8 in postseason overtimes. … Smith tied James Neal, Viktor Arvidsson and David Legwand for most game-winning goals in the playoffs. … Grimaldi played his first postseason game since April 2016 with Florida. … Benn now has at least a point in 10 of his 11 career postseason games on the road with four goals and nine assists.
Game 3 on Monday night in Dallas.