Weber returns to lead Predators over Stars 5-3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Shea Weber said he was a little nervous coming back from a three-game absence. It didn't show on the ice.
Weber had a goal and two assists and the Nashville Predators beat the Dallas Stars 5-3 Tuesday night.
Weber has 12 power-play goals this season. He had been out with a lower-body injury.
''He was terrific,'' Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ''We were being safe in making sure that Shea was ready. We didn't want to force the issue. We didn't want to go backwards. We got to a point where he felt good.''
Craig Smith and James Neal each had a goal and an assist, and Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won a season-high five straight. Pekka Rinne made 35 saves.
''The way the guys were playing while I was out, I was a little nervous to come back,'' Weber said. ''I didn't want to be the reason we lost the game, so it was a big win. I thought the guys did a good job. That's a very good team over there.''
Antoine Roussel had a goal and an assist and Jason Spezza and Vernon Fiddler also scored for Dallas, which has lost its last four games.
Antti Niemi stopped 14 of 18 shots for the Stars before being relieved by Kari Lehtonen midway through the second.
Smith scored the game's first goal at 12:38 of the opening period.
From behind the Dallas net, Mike Ribeiro found Smith stationed just outside of the crease on the right side, where he beat Niemi with a quick snap shot.
Just 10 seconds later, Roussel beat Nashville defenseman Anthony Bitetto on the right side and was able to cut toward the net and slip the puck between Rinne's left skate and the post.
''My focus is to keep the puck out of the net and I got beat tonight on a tough goal,'' Bitetto said. ''You've got to put everything behind you.''
Early in the second, Bitetto carried the puck into the Dallas zone and left a drop pass for Neal, who sent a shot toward the net. Skating through the slot, Jarnkrok bunted the puck like a baseball batter, sending it off of the knob of Niemi's stick and into the net.
''We gave up a big rush chance right at the start of the second, which I thought got them a little bit fired up,'' Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said.
Weber made it 3-1 at 9:17 of the second on a power play with a one-timer from above the left circle off a pass from Roman Josi.
Ekholm followed 31 seconds later with a backhand from the right circle, spelling the end of the night for Niemi.
''You just want to do the basic stuff, see the puck, make the stops, but sometimes it's hard,'' Niemi said.
Dallas made it 4-2 at 16:28 of the second. With the Stars on a two-man advantage, Spezza poked in a loose puck in the crease.
Neal made it 5-2 at 5:37, but Fiddler, a former Predator, cut Nashville's lead back to two goals at 10:30 with his ninth goal of the season.
NOTES: Nashville LW Viktor Arvidsson had one assist in the game, extending his point streak to three games. ... Bitetto has assists in consecutive games. ... Niemi is 10-7-3 in his career against Nashville.