After a long 82-game season, the Dallas Stars took on the Nashville Predators for Game One of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. In what has become a new rivalry over the past few seasons, the Stars and the Predators met for their first clash of the playoffs in Nashville tonight.
With Ben Bishop in net, Mats Zuccarello healthy, and Tyler Seguin raring to go in his first Game One since his first season in Dallas, the Stars were on a mission to send a message. Dallas’ defense, strong goaltending, and slew of young rookies shone bright and brought the heat.
Tonight started the long trek to the Stanley Cup Final, and the line between victory and defeat is now razor thin.
The first frame started just as fans all thought it would, with the Nashville defense laying big hits on high-value Dallas players (Mats Zuccarello, Miro Heiskanen) and with those players staying calm and collected in the face of what is arguably the NHL’s most stacked defensive group.
Nashville ended up on the game’s first power play, as Mattias Janmark sat in the box for slashing. During the penalty kill, Brian Boyle landed a huge hit on Jason Dickinson. Dickinson was slow to get up and immediately went to the dressing room. Ben Bishop handled the few dangerous shots that the Predators managed on their man advantage and helped shut down the Nashville power play.
Minutes later, Roman Josi dangled into the slot and shot one in backhand, using Heiskanen as a sort of screen. His goal put Nashville up 1-0 over Dallas just 12 minutes into the period.
In a bittersweet sort of revenge, Boyle ended up in the box for hooking against Tyler Pitlick soon after, which gave the Stars their first chance on the power play. While the top unit caused some chaos, giving the Predators’ Viktor Arvidsson a shorthanded wraparound chance, the second unit really shone. Justin Dowling and Roope Hintz both had a flurry of chances that were inches from going in, but between Rinne and the posts, just couldn’t bang them home.
Shots: Stars 9, Predators 12
Score: Stars 0, Predators 1
Dallas found their way back to their style of game in the second period. They played a more settled, even game and led in shots on goal. Part of that was due to meeting the Predators on the physical side of the game. An early collision sent Colton Sissons sprawling into Bishop, and both were called for matching minors (goaltender interference and embellishment respectively), which set both Dallas and Nashville up for some 4-on-4 hockey. Tyler Seguin had the most dangerous shot during those two minutes, but couldn’t capitalize.
Arvidsson had a collision with Janmark that John Klingberg took exception to, causing players to pair up in a light skirmish and led to the ripping off of a few helmets at center ice. Klingberg went to the box for roughing, giving Nashville on their second power play of the game, but Nashville came up empty. The Stars’ good news during Nashville’s power play came in the return of Jason Dickinson, who took a shift or two on the penalty kill and was fully back on the bench after his scary collision with Boyle.
Shortly after their penalty kill shift, Dallas returned to the man advantage, with Sissons sitting for holding against Benn. The top unit once again failed to impress but the rookie-loaded second unit put in the work. Hintz blew up the Nashville defense by flying at the net to put on a shot that ultimately resulted in a reset in Nashville’s end. Heiskanen ended up with the puck, settled it, waited for a lane, and instead fired it home, with Mattias Ekholm deflecting it in to tie it up 1-1.
The Predators ended up on yet another power play, after a tripping call carried out on Mikael Grandlund. Nashville once again gave a lackluster performance while Dallas’ penalty kill stepped up to the plate. With 15 seconds left in the period, Kyle Turris was called for interference on Blake Comeau, canceling out the final seconds of Nashville’s power play and sending the Stars to another special teams shift of their own. Klingberg wired one directly to the net and it rung off of the post, but Dallas couldn’t pull ahead.
Not long after, Janmark shoveled the puck into Nashville’s net, but the whistle was blown and horn sounded, causing a kerfuffle in front of the next as time ran out. It was determined that the clock had hit 0.0 before the puck crossed the line, so Janmark’s effort didn’t count.
Shots: Dallas 19, Nashville 17
Score: Dallas 1, Nashville 1
Coming into the third frame, the change of pace was visible. While Nashville had seemed to back off some in the second period, the Predators found their physical game again in the early parts of the third. The pace may have changed, but Dallas figured out a weakness or two of Nashville’s, mainly their third pairing of veteran Dan Hamhuis and just-out-of-college rookie Dante Fabbro.
Just over six minutes into the third, Dallas took advantage of their newfound knowledge and put pressure on Nashville, with rookie sensation Heiskanen once again finding the back of the net to put Dallas ahead 2-1. The deft shot was his second goal of the night.
After four minutes of even play, Dallas got another on the board, with Zuccarello picking up the loose-in-front rebound of Benn’s shot and potting it past Pekka Rinne. His keen work made it a 3-1 game for the Stars. Zuccarello now has a point in every game he’s ever played in wearing a Dallas sweater.
The Stars got a little too comfortable in their lead and Nashville took advantage. P.K. Subban spun off of a hit from Pitlick while tracking both him and the puck into the corner. Subban toe-dragged in front of the net to lose Taylor Fedun and committed his shot, sending one in high on the short-side to cut Dallas’ lead to 3-2.
Nashville then drew another penalty for their fourth (and thankfully, final) power play of the game, as Janmark sat for holding against Filip Forsberg. While that was their most effective power play of the game, Nashville couldn’t capitalize and the game returned to even strength. During the final dying seconds of their power play, Nashville pulled Rinne to give them a 6-on-4 advantage and kept him off the ice for the final minutes of the period. It was to no avail however, as the Stars won the game 3-2.
Final Shots: Dallas 29, Nashville 32
Final Score: Dallas 3, Nashville 2
The Stars now lead the series 1-0 and will continue their odyssey against the Predators in Nashville on Saturday, April 13. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. CDT.