The Dallas Stars went into Nashville on Saturday afternoon and unloaded a 5-3 assault on the Predators. With the big victory, they have now won two in a row and are one win away from knocking the Predators out and moving on to round two.
When the Dallas Stars secured a dominant 5-1 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 4, there was little time to celebrate.
Sure, they had just picked up a big win on home ice. And yes, they had two days off before getting back to action.
But with the series being tied at 2-2 and shifting back to Bridgestone Arena for a critical Game 5, it was still very much anyone’s series. And with Nashville getting home ice advantage back, there was plenty of reason to believe that they would come out swinging and make things difficult on Dallas.
The Stars had reason to believe as well, though. Dallas had been the better team in each of the past two games, but had lost in Game 3 after Ben Bishop and their power play couldn’t come through at critical moments. Even so, they looked determined and hungry to make this a long series.
And on the biggest stage (NBC) on Saturday afternoon, they proved that their belief was a lot stronger than Nashville’s.
Dallas went into a sold-out Bridgestone Arena and knocked off the Predators in a chippy and intense 5-3 win. With the victory, the Stars regained the series lead for the first time since leading 1-0 and now sit one win away from clinching a berth in the second round.
Unlike in Game 4, though, the Stars didn’t create a four-goal deficit through the first few minutes of the first period. They didn’t use multiple power play goals to build a dominant lead. And to top it all off, they didn’t even open up the scoring.
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Instead, it was Nashville’s Rocco Grimaldi that put the first goal on the board when he tallied his third of the series with 13:35 remaining in the first. The crowd erupted, the Predators took in the lead, and it looked as though the Stars would be in for a tall challenge.
But they didn’t look frazzled nor did they seem out-of-sync. The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov continued to buzz and click in the opening frame, with Rinne coming producing some stellar stops to keep them at bay. The Dallas offense kept churning and it wasn’t long before they got the game back to even and pushed the pressure back on Nashville.
It was the second line that did it. Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson, and Mats Zuccarello combined to produce a hardworking and gritty shift that put the Nashville defense on its heels and eventually led to a scoring chance. Hintz used his speed to get behind the net and draw the Predators’ attention away from the slot, where Jason Dickinson awaited the feed and buried the shot for his first career playoff goal.
And though the scoreboard said 1-1 at first intermission, it was clear that the Stars were the better team through 20 minutes. Had it not been for a handful of crazy stops by Rinne, Dallas very well could have been up 3-1 at the end of the period.
They ended up achieving that mark early in the second period. Just 40 seconds into the beginning of the frame, the top trio finally converted as Radulov capitalized on the back door on a brilliant and patient feed from Seguin. The Stars took their first lead of the game and looked to be in control.
“I think we have a lot of guys that have been waiting to be back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since we’ve been here, everybody looks the same when we don’t have it and players are playing to their strengths when we have it. I think that’s why we’re being better offensively, but we’re really being hard to play against defensively.” – Jim Montgomery on his team’s progression after Game 5
But, just like they did on Wednesday, they didn’t stop there. Radulov had the team’s third goal just seven minutes later when he scored in the slot. The play was set up by Benn, who outworked Ryan Ellis behind the net with an impressive forecheck. It was a prime example of “Beast Mode Benn” and helped put the Stars in front 3-1 to the tune of a quiet Bridgestone Arena.
Ryan Johansen was quick to counter, though, as he scored his first in the 2019 playoffs less than two minutes later to trim the Dallas lead to one.
That goal could have provided the Predators with some life and given them a chance to get their crowd back into it and eventually tie the game. Instead, the Dallas Stars forged on and got a goal from Seguin to make it 4-2 at second intermission.
“He’s a heck of a player. I think he’s underrated on this team. He’s a very reliable player for us and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He plays the right way all of the time, he’s a smart hockey player, and he does all of the little things right. That makes him a heck of a hockey player for this team.” – Jamie Benn on the play of Jason Dickinson after Game 5
Dallas was quick on the draw yet again in the third period as Dickinson forced a Nashville turnover in the defensive zone and capitalized with another goal to push the lead to 5-2. Kyle Turris struck back a few minutes later with a goal that deflected off of Jamie Oleksiak‘s foot and past Bishop to make it 5-3. And though the Predators outshot the Stars 16-4 in the final frame, Bishop shut the door to preserve the multi-goal lead and push Dallas to a 3-2 series advantage.
That was a game that the Dallas Stars needed. Had they crumbled under the pressure of Nashville home ice on a national stage (NBC), they would have been forced to win out in the series (which would have included stealing a Game 7 in Nashville). Winning, however, puts them in front and gives them a chance to close the series on Monday night at the American Airlines Center.
But it was also very clearly a game that they wanted. That was evident from the opening puck drop.
The Stars controlled almost every aspect of the game. They played with a quick pace and plenty of bite. They didn’t let an early goal against rattle them. They continued forging ahead with their game plan and began to suffocate a rattled and drained Nashville defense as the contest went on. They outhit the Predators, blocked more shots in the defensive zone, and took advantage of Nashville’s 19 giveaways.
“I think it’s grown quite a bit,” said Stars coach Jim Montgomery about how his team’s mindset has grown in the playoffs. “Players relish getting out there right now and everybody wants the puck and everybody wants to hunt the puck. Right now, I think the players are feeling really good about themselves and that’s a good place to be. But, we have to channel our ‘stay in the moment’ and get back ready for Monday night.”
Jamie Benn tied the NHL record for most assists in a period with three. The top trio was lights out in the second period and helped the Dallas Stars jump out and stay out in front. The young guns played a large role as Jason Dickinson had his own goal-scoring party just three days after Roope Hintz did. The Dallas power play generated some chances on its two opportunities while the penalty kill remained spotless and now sits at 11/11 in the series.
“They’ve been great all season and tonight was a good example of what they can do. Obviously, they all had a good night and a big game for us. We know the next one is going to be the hardest to win.” – Ben Bishop on the Stars’ top line after Game 5
And when they needed Bishop to shut the door, he was there with a 15/16 showing in the final frame.
The Dallas Stars earned a hard-fought and gritty win in the Music City and did so on a big stage. Now, they own a 3-2 lead in the series and will head back home to what should be an electric Game 6 crowd at the AAC on Monday as they look to send Nashville home for the summer and move on to round two.
“We did a lot of good things,” Montgomery said after the game. “I think we keep getting better and we have to keep getting better. The next one is the hardest one because it’s the potential to end someone’s season. That’s the challenge in front of us now.”