Even with one of their best players back in the lineup the Nashville Predators were anything but at their best Thursday.
Shea Weber’s return after a four-game absence with a concussion was spoiled by a 4-1 defeat before a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators never led yet their number of shots decreased with each period and their mistakes grew.
“We weren’t sharp,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Self-inflicted four goals, that’s how I look at it. … Every goal I can point to us rather than them.”
Turnovers by the Predators in their own end led to the Stars’ last three goals. The exception was the first, when defenseman Roman Josi allowed Mike Ribero to skate right past him and in on the net.
The mistakes were spread throughout much of the lineup. Seven Nashville players, including Weber, were minus-2 on the night and only defensemen Jack Hillen and Francis Bouillon (plus-1 each) had plus ratings.
“This one we just didn’t match their work ethic,” Weber said. “We didn’t work hard enough, and they won a lot of battles and, obviously, scored on their chances."
Weber did not exactly ease back into things upon his return.
His 25:45 of ice time was second only to Ryan Suter (28:05). He had a team-high four shots on goal. Three other shots were blocked and four missed the net. Plus, he registered a game-high five hits and blocked a shot.
“He just got stronger and stronger as the game went on,” Trotz said. “For his first game back, he was fine. … He got involved physically. He got involved trying to put pucks at the net. We didn’t have much going offensively and when he was throwing pucks to the net at least he was trying to put something there.”
For the game, the Stars outshot the Predators 30-25. Nashville, though, went from 12 in the first to eight in the second to five in the third despite the fact that they fell further behind as things progressed.
The Stars went ahead for good on Ribero’s second goal, in the final minute of the first period, and added one each in the second and third.
“It wasn’t a very good game,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “All around, it wasn’t very good. … We kind of gave them a couple of goals with mistakes on our part. … I thought we pretty much gave them every goal by mistakes we made.”
The Predators did even the score on one account.
Fewer than two minutes into the contest, Jordin Tootoo sought out Stars defenseman Mark Fistric in an obvious attempt at retribution. It was Fistric who hit Weber the last time the teams met, Dec. 23 in Dallas, and caused the concussion.
It was not much of a fight. The players basically hugged one another until Tootoo finally threw Fistric to the ice.
“I give Fistric full marks,” Trotz said. “He says, ‘OK. I understand. I made the hit and I have to stand up to that. That was sort of the end of it. Once guys stand up for it, that sort of ends it right then and there.”
The Predators effectively were finished not too long after that.
• Gabriel Bourque scored Nashville’s only goal. It was the first career goal in his fourth career game.
“It’s a good feeling, but when you lose it’s not fun,” Bourque said. “We would like a win, but I’m still happy to have my goal.”
• With the return of Weber, both Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis were scratched.
For Blum, it was the second straight game and fourth time this season he was a healthy scratch. For Ellis, it was the first time since he was recalled and made his NHL debut right after Christmas.
Trotz said one is likely to be reassigned.
• Colin Wilson missed his third straight game with an upper body injury.