The Dallas Stars’ quest for a playoff spot ended in Nashville on Thursday night. A 2-0 loss to the Predators mathematically eliminated the Stars from the playoff race.
The Stars now have missed the playoffs four straight seasons, the longest postseason drought in franchise history.
"It's frustrating, disappointing. It doesn’t get easier,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “You always want to win that last one and give our fans the opportunity to see playoff hockey again. They deserve it. Ever since Mr. [Tom] Gaglardi took over [as owner], they’ve been out to support us and root us on. It would have been nice to give them the opportunity to see some playoff hockey.”
Needing a win to keep their hopes alive, the Stars played the Predators to a scoreless tie through the first two periods. But Nashville got that key first goal with 15:32 left in the game when Patric Hornqvist came out from behind the net and put a shot on net and defenseman Francis Bouillon put the rebound past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.
“Good things happen when you take it to the net,” Hornqvist said.
Hornqvist sealed the win for the Predators when he was able to get to the rebound of a Brandon Yip shot and give Nashville a 2-0 lead with just 2:00 left in the game.
The Stars pulled Lehtonen a short time later for the extra attacker and had a late power play but weren’t able to get a puck past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped 28 shots for his fifth shutout of the season and his league-best 43rd win.
"The guys did a great job,” Rinne said. “They had a good push there at the end but we did a really good job five‐on‐five and on the penalty kill. It was just a solid game. We didn’t do anything out of the ordinary."
It was the second time in the past three games the Stars were shut out.
“It was a good hockey game; we just didn’t get the result we wanted,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We played hard, and I liked the way we competed. It was a one-goal hockey game, who could manage to get that one in, and they managed to do so.”
Nashville moved one point ahead of Detroit for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. The Stars, who have lost eight of their past 11 games, wrap up their season Saturday against St. Louis and then will have another long offseason.
“It’s tough,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “It’s never fun and it’s the worst feeling for a professional hockey player.”
Notes: Fistric injured
*Stars defenseman Mark Fistric left the game in the second period with a groin injury and did not return.
*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and are now 1-25 on the power play over the past eight games. For the season, the Stars are 30th in the league at 13.8 percent.
*The Stars did change things up on the power play, loading up the first unit with a four-forward look of Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder and Mike Ribeiro, along with defenseman Stephane Robidas.
*Right wing Radek Dvorak returned to the lineup after missing the previous five games with an ankle injury.