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5 things to know: Stars claim top wild-card spot with shutout of Wild

Dallas will face Central Division champion Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Pitlick taps home rebound

MIN@DAL: Pitlick buries rebound to extend lead

Tyler Pitlick finds the rebound at the doorstep and taps it in to give the Stars a 3-0 lead in the 3rd

  • 00:54 •

Next stop for the Dallas Stars: Nashville and Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild, 3-0, Saturday night in their regular-season finale to clinch the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference and now have a first-round date with the Predators, who finished first in the Central Division.

Ben Bishop stopped 24 shots for his seventh shutout of the season, and Tyler Seguin scored twice for the Stars, who finished the season 43-32-7 (92 points).

Here are five things to know from Saturday.

 

1. Bring on the Predators

The regular season is over, and now it is on to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Stars.

"The emotion is higher, the hits are harder, and the goals are bigger celebrations," said Stars center Tyler Seguin. "It's the best time of year."

Heading into Saturday's game, the Stars had four possible first-round opponents. But as the Stars clinched the first wild-card spot with their 3-0 win over Minnesota, it became official that they would play the Nashville Predators, who had a few minutes earlier clinched first place in the Central Division with a 5-2 win over Chicago.

"Exciting. Really excited. Really excited to get started and we cannot wait," said Seguin. "We wanted to go in with a win and stay in our division. It's going to be a good opportunity."

The Stars and Predators played five times this season with Dallas going 2-1-2 in the season series and Nashville 3-2-0.

"They are a good team. They've got the experience," said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop. "I think any team that we had the possibility of playing is going to be a good team. We've got to get ready for them. We've got to do our homework.

"It's a fun place to play. We've just got be ready for Game 1."

Video: Bishop discusses return, looks ahead to postseason

 

2. Playoff matchups set

Here are the first-round matchups for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division
1-Nashville vs. WC1-Dallas
2-Winnipeg vs. 3-St. Louis

Pacific Division
1-Calgary vs. WC2-Colorado
2-San Jose vs. 3-Vegas

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlantic Division
1-Tampa Bay vs. WC2-Columbus
2-Boston vs. 3-Toronto

Metropolitan Division
1-Washington vs. WC1-Carolina
2-NY Islanders vs. 3-Pittsburgh

The full series schedule is expected to be released Sunday morning.

Video: MIN@DAL: Radulov collects 300th point on Seguin's PPG

 

3. Bishop returns, tosses another shutout

Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was back in net after missing the last four games with a lower-body injury and picked up right where he left off, stopping 24 shots for his seventh shutout of the season.

"Good. It's nice to get back in there," Bishop said. "It felt good and didn't really feel like I missed a beat."

This was Bishop's first game in a week and a half. If he didn't get into Saturday's game, his time between games would have been two weeks when the playoffs open Wednesday.

"I think it was important to get in there and know that everything is working right and that he is ready to go. That's the most important thing," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said.

With Saturday's shutout, Bishop lowered his goals against average to 1.98 and raised his save percentage to .934 for the regular season.

"He's been phenomenal," said Montgomery. "Not only is he the top goaltender in the league right now, but [Anton] Khudobin is one of the top five. That's why we finished second in [goals against]. Bish is just in a zone. Let's hope it goes for eight more weeks."

Bishop and Minnesota's Alex Stalock, who made 41 saves in the game, were locked in a scoreless duel through 40 minutes Saturday before Tyler Seguin scored on a one-timer with Dallas on the power play 2:44 into the third period. Seguin pushed the lead to 2-0, tallying off the rebound of a Jamie Oleksiak shot at 8:55 of the third. Tyler Pitlick scored a little more than three minutes later to push the lead to 3-0.

"I think we played to our identity. We possessed the puck a lot and created a lot of good chances," Montgomery said. "It was kind of bad luck to be 0-0 after two, but we stuck with it. Playing to our identity and the confidence they have in playing the right way led to a good third period for us.

"The fun begins now."

Video: MIN@DAL: Bishop turns aside Fiala with pad save

 

4. Zuccarello sits as a precaution

Forward Mats Zuccarello did not play in Saturdays' regular-season finale, but he is expected to be ready for the playoffs.

Stars coach Jim Montgomery said the team was being cautious with Zuccarello, who returned Tuesday after missing five weeks due to a broken arm. Zuccarello left Tuesday's game midway through the third period as a precaution and did not play in the final two games of the season.

"Trending the right way (for the playoffs)," Montgomery said. "He felt great when he played [Tuesday]. You want to make sure he is going to get in a rhythm, and I told him 'I don't know if you need to play to be in a rhythm' the way he moves the puck. He said 'Yeah, I don't need to play these last two games,' so it is just more precautionary. That's all it is."

The Stars rested defenseman Ben Lovejoy in Saturday's game and played Roman Polak, who rested on Friday night when the Stars played at Chicago.

Forward Valeri Nichushkin missed a second straight game due to illness.

The Stars reassigned center Joel L'Esperance to the AHL on Saturday afternoon.

Video: Montgomery looking forward to home playoff games

 

5. Radulov runs point streak to eight games

Alexander Radulov picked up an assist Saturday to run his point streak to eight games (five goals and seven assists for 12 points). ... Tyler Seguin finished the season by recording points in nine of his last 10 games (six goals, nine assists). ... The Stars finished the season 14-10-2 vs. the Central Division. ... The Stars were 24-14-3 at home and 19-18-4 on the road. ... The Stars outshot the Wild, 44-24, and had a 68-49 advantage in shot attempts. ... Seguin led the Stars with seven shots on goal, and Jason Spezza was tops with nine shot attempts. ... The Stars were 1-for-3 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. ... Dallas won 32 of 56 faceoffs (57 percent). Roope Hintz won 14 of 20 draws (70 percent). Seguin won 8 of 10 (80 percent). ... Esa Lindell led the Stars with 23:49 of ice time.

Here is the lineup the Stars used to start Saturday's game along with scratches and injuries.

Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Tyler Pitlick
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Jason Spezza

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen -Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Ben Bishop
Landon Bow

Scratched: Anton Khudobin, Mats Zuccarello, Ben Lovejoy, Brett Ritchie, Julius Honka
Injured: Valeri Nichushkin (sick), Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mark Stepneski has covered the Stars for DallasStars.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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