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Matt Cullen's go-ahead goal in 3rd period lifts Predators over slumping Stars, 3-2

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DALLAS — Matt Cullen gave the Predators a lead that Pekka Rinne protected in the final seconds.

Cullen scored the go-ahead goal at 13:47 of the third period and Nashville beat the slumping Dallas Stars 3-2 on Thursday in a game that wasn't decided until the last shot of the night.

"I think it was (Tyler) Seguin who shot the puck at the end there from the side," Rinne said. "I was just diving across and obviously, you need some luck to make that save.

"It was a huge win for us. Cullen gets a big goal to win it. After that, we played smart, defended really hard and a few of the bounces were going my way tonight."

Nashville won for the third time in five tries on a six-game road trip.

Dallas rallied from a 2-0 deficit on goals by Trevor Daley and Patrick Eaves. But the Stars have lost their last six games (0-4-2), and are 1-2-4 at home.

"We played better, and got the same result," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. "The guys we're counting on had probably seven or eight good chances. Rinne probably was the difference-maker at the end."

On the winning goal, Cullen retrieved the puck when it came out of the right corner to him just outside the crease. He shot under a tangle of legs past Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen and inside the right post.

Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg scored power-play goals in the second period for Nashville. The Predators had only two power-play goals in their first nine games, but have scored four in the last four games.

Dallas failed to score on its only power play, and is 0 for 15 in the past four games.

PHOTO: Nashville Predators' Shea Weber (6) and Derek Roy (21) skate over to congratulate Craig Smith (15) on his goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Nashville Predators' Shea Weber (6) and Derek Roy (21) skate over to congratulate Craig Smith (15) on his goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

"We had to win the special-teams battle in order to win the game, and we did," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "Had the specialty teams been reversed, maybe we had a different outcome."

Rinne made 33 saves, 12 in the third period. Lehtonen had 30.

"Dallas was pretty desperate," Rinne said.

Nashville's Derek Roy and Matthias Ekholm each had two assists.

Daley cut the deficit to one by scoring unassisted on an end-to-end rush at 16:26 of the second. He crossed the blue line, skated to the left of two defenders and fired a shot past Rinne to the right post.

In the third period, Daley's slap shot hit the boards behind the net, and the puck bounced out in front. After Rinne stopped shots by Antoine Roussel and Seguin, Eaves backhanded a rebound over the goalie at 6:23.

Neither team scored during an even first period. Each team had 10 shots on goal and one unsuccessful power play.

Dallas' best chance came on a 2-on-1 break about 14 minutes in, when Rinne turned aside Jamie Benn.

"He was on top of his game," Benn said after none of his seven shots on goal went in. "He made some great saves for them."

Smith broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal at 4:10 of the second. Roy passed from the right circle to Smith, who used Colin Wilson's screen to beat Lehtonen.

Nashville took a 2-0 lead on Forsberg's power-play goal from the top of the left circle at 13:57 of the second.

NOTES: Cullen has four game-winning goals against the Stars, his most against any team. ... Predators LW Eric Nystrom played his 500th NHL game, including 122 for Dallas. ... Smith and Forsberg lead the Predators with two power-play goals each. ... Forsberg, who has five goals and eight assists, entered the game leading NHL rookies in scoring. ... Eaves played five games for Nashville last season. ... Stars C Cody Eakin (upper-body injury) missed a game for only the second time in his three seasons. ... Roy played eight seasons for Ruff in Buffalo, then played for the Stars in 2012-13. ... Laviolette is 10-3-0 against Dallas.

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PHOTO: Nashville Predators' Shea Weber (6) and Derek Roy (21) skate over to congratulate Craig Smith (15) on his goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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