The Nashville Predators will play the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nashville (47-29-6) won the Central Division for a second straight season and will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series against Dallas (43-32-7), which finished fourth in the Central and is the first wild card from the West.
"It's been up and down throughout the year," Predators forward Filip Forsberg said. "Obviously, you look back a month, we were looking up on, especially [the Winnipeg Jets]. We've just been grinding hard, and I think we earned it."
The teams each went 2-1-2 in the season series. Tyler Seguin scored three goals, and Mattias Janmark, Jason Spezza and Tyler Pitlick each scored twice for the Stars. Esa Lindell had five points (one goal, four assists). Anton Khudobin was 2-1-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average, .949 save percentage and one shutout. Ben Bishop lost his only start, a 5-4 overtime loss on Nov. 10.
Roman Josi led the Predators with six points (three goals, three assists) in the five games, and Ryan Johansen had four points (two goals, two assists). Pekka Rinne went 1-2-0 allowing eight goals on 95 shots in three games. Juuse Saros was 2-0-0 allowing six goals on 53 shots.
Seguin led the Stars with 80 points (33 goals, 47 assists) this season. Alexander Radulov had 72 points (29 goals, 43 assists), and Jamie Benn scored 27 goals. Bishop was 27-15-2 with a 2.02 GAA, .934 save percentage and seven shutouts in 46 games (44 starts). Khudobin was 16-17-5 with a 2.57 GAA, .923 save percentage and two shutouts in 41 games (37 starts).
"The emotion is higher, the hits are harder, and the goals are bigger celebrations," Seguin said. "It's the best time of the year."
Johansen led the Predators with 64 points (14 goals, 50 assists). Josi had 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists), and Viktor Arvidsson led them with 34 goals in 58 games. Rinne was 30-19-4 with a 2.43 GAA, .917 save percentage and four shutouts in 56 games (54 starts) this season. Juuse Saros was 17-10-2 with a 2.62 GAA, .915 save percentage and three shutouts in 31 games (27 starts).
Nashville and Dallas have never met in the playoffs.
Dallas last qualified for the postseason in 2016, when it lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games in the second round.
Nashville qualified for a fifth straight season; they lost in seven games to the Winnipeg Jets in the second round last season and lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in 2016.
"We wake up tomorrow and it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so it's a whole different bird," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "But I've said this a couple of times: You can't play the Stanley Cup Playoffs in December. You can't even play them today. You can only play what's dealt to you, and that's the regular season."