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First Round

Stars believe consistency will help in Game 6 against Predators

Maintaining stingy defense, energized offense key for Dallas in trying to close series

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

DALLAS -- Mats Zuccarello has been here before. The Dallas Stars forward was part of Stanley Cup Playoff runs with the New York Rangers and knows how tough it is to close a series.

"It's important to stay a little mellow, you know?" Zuccarello said. "Don't get too excited, don't think ahead too much. It's been a tough series. Just focus on what you do and play the way you've been playing the whole time."

 

[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Stars series coverage]

 

The Stars have been playing great lately, and they'll try to end the Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators by winning Game 6 at American Airlines Center on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN1, TVAS2, FS-SW, FS-TN). The Stars lead the best-of-7 series after a 5-3 win against the Predators in Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

Dallas is looking to win its first playoff series since 2016, when they defeated the Minnesota Wild in six games in the Western Conference First Round.

"I think we keep getting better and we have to keep getting better," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "The next one is the hardest one because it has the potential to end someone's season. That's the challenge in front of us now."

The Stars have been sound defensively, allowing 11 goals in the five games. Goalie Ben Bishop is 3-2-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.

Dallas is getting offense to go with that stingy defense. Their 209 goals were tied for the third-fewest in the NHL during the regular season, and the fewest of any team that made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the Stars have 16 goals in this series, tied for the fourth in the postseason.

After winning Game 4 5-1, Dallas has scored at least five goals in consecutive playoff games for the ninth time in Stars/Minnesota North Stars history, and the first time since the North Stars did it in Games 3 and 4 of the 1991 Campbell Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers.

Video: Stars put Predators on brink of elimination

"There's a mindset that needs to be bought in by everyone, and we have a great group that has bought in," Dallas forward Jason Dickinson said. "Everybody's going to work hard, everybody's going to do the little things and it's going to roll over from shift to shift. It's not like we've got one line taking a shift off. It's everyone doing the right things."

Part of the improved offense has been the power play, which went 3-for-6 in Game 4. And in Game 5 the top line of Jamie Benn (three assists), Tyler Seguin (one goal, one assist) and Alexander Radulov (two goals) combined for seven points.

"We're doing a good job of getting in front of the net, getting screens," Stars forward Blake Comeau said. "We have depth, we have guys who are all buying into making sure we're playing winning hockey, playing the right way defensively."

Younger players Roope Hintz and Dickinson, each in his first NHL postseason, also are contributing. Hintz, 22, has three points (two goals, one assist) in five games, and Dickinson, 23, scored twice in Game 5.

"I just try to get space for those two guys," said Zuccarello, who has played on the second line with Hintz and Dickinson. "I don't really do much. They've been unbelievable, Roope with his speed and strength and Dickey [with] hard work, a good shot. In the playoffs it's all about secondary scoring. They got us important goals at important times."

On the verge of advancing to the second round, the Stars are confident.

"We've been working hard on our game since the All-Star break, through ups and downs through the whole season," defenseman John Klingberg said. "So I think we're ready for this. Obviously we want to close it out tomorrow."

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