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5 things to know: Third-period blitz sends Stars past Preds

Comeau scores late and Khudobin makes 38 saves, lifting Dallas to a fourth straight win in physical fashion

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars made it four wins in a row with a 3-1 victory at Nashville on Saturday night.

Anton Khudobin stopped 38 shots, and Blake Comeau scored the game-winner with 4:13 remaining as the Stars matched their longest winning streak of the season.

Tyler Seguin and Mattias Janmark also scored goals for the Stars, who pulled two points ahead of Minnesota for third place in the Central Division.  

Here are five things from Saturday's game.


1. Stars don't break early and come on strong late

The Stars didn't get off to the best start Saturday, but they were able to weather it on their way to a 3-1 win over the Predators in Nashville. The Predators were on the Stars early, holding a 9-1 advantage in shots and a 1-0 lead midway through the first on a Calle Jarnkrok goal off the rush.

But things stabilized after that. The Stars answered quickly when Alexander Radulov set up Seguin, who scored off a blast from the right circle just 1:36 after the Jarnkrok goal and it was a 1-1 game. The second period was a little chippy but evenly played. And then the Stars made a strong push early in the third and came up with two goals in 43 seconds late in the game from Comeau and Janmark, and it was a 3-1 win.

"I thought we got better as the game progressed," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "Nashville came at us in the first, and I thought we weathered it really well. I love how our group has matured with handling moments of when the other team has momentum. We bend, but we don't break.

"In the third, we came out and dictated. That's what you like to see is the change in our group's mentality in their belief of each other."

That's the second straight game the Stars have gone into the third period tied and came away with two points against a key divisional foe. The Stars are 7-7-2 when tied after two periods this season.

"It's a really big win," Comeau said. "I thought we came out a little flat but as the game went along we got better and better, and in the third we really ramped it up. That's something we've addressed as of late, to make sure we come out and have good, strong thirds.

Video: DAL@NSH: Comeau tucks puck home to put Stars ahead


2. Khudobin comes up big again in Nashville

Anton Khudobin wasn't among the three stars of the game as selected by Nashville media, but he came up huge again in Music City. Khudobin, who pitched a 49-save shutout in the Stars' 2-0 win in Nashville on Dec. 27, stopped 38 of 39 shots Saturday night.

As in the December win, he got some help from his teammates, who kept the quality chances down and kept Nashville on the outside. Still, Khudobin made some quality saves and was sharp early when the Predators were dictating play.

You have to appreciate Khudobin's honesty in postgame interviews. He was asked if playing Nashville brings out the best in him.

"Nope," he said. "I played them twice, got the result, but there is nothing about it."

Khudobin improved to 9-9-2 on the season and as of late Saturday night ranked second in the league in save percentage (.926) and third in goals against average (2.39). Teammate Ben Bishop ranks second in GAA (2.25) and fourth in save percentage (.925).

Video: Khudobin dominates between the pipes in Nashville


3. Depth scoring delivers

Depth scoring came up big for the Stars. Goals by Comeau and Janmark 43 seconds apart late in the third period turned a 1-1 game into a 3-1 Dallas lead. Interestingly, those two goals came just after Montgomery put Jamie Benn back onto the top line with Seguin and Radulov and moved Janmark into Benn's spot on a line with Radek Faksa and Comeau.  

The move reuniting the top line came just after a TV timeout with 5:18 left in the third and a short time later out came the Faksa line, which quickly scored the game-winning goal when Faksa tracked down a loose puck, got it to Janmark, who then set up Comeau's goal with 4:13 left.

"I just tried to go to the net. I thought Janny was going to shoot it," said Comeau. "He made a great pass, and I am not sure if it hit my skate or my stick, but I saw it pop up and I slid it home. It was a good feeling, and I was happy to see it go in."

Just 43 seconds later that line - at least two-thirds of it - struck during a line change when Faksa put a shot on net on the rush, Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne couldn't handle the rebound, and Janmark put it home to give the Stars a two-goal lead late in the game.

Video: DAL@NSH: Comeau, Janmark lead Stars' 3rd period rally


4. Rivalry ramping up?

There weren't a lot of penalty minutes, but it did get chippy at times. Comeau took a roughing minor on Roman Josi, and there was a minor scrum later in the first period.

Things got more heated in the second. Comeau hit P.K Subban later and that to Subban taking an unsportsmanlike minor for retaliation. Then there was some sparring between Khudobin and Predators forward Ryan Hartman, and Stars defenseman Esa Lindell stepped in, dropped the gloves and fought Hartman.

"I thought the second period was huge for us getting emotion into the game," said Montgomery. "We played with emotion, but we weren't emotional. We weren't getting caught up in the crowd and the antics that were going on on the ice. … Esa was a big deal there."

As for Khudobin, he said his issues with Hartman started before the second period.

"My point is, if you see the first period he hit me really, really slightly and fell down. I don't like diving in hockey," Khudobin said. "And he speared me a couple times, too. I didn't answer but he spear me again and dove. I am like, 'What are you going to do?' Diver. That's it, but it's hockey. It's always going to be like this. If I need to drop the gloves, I will. But guys stepped in for me. I hope it's not going to happen again."

The Stars played the Predators again Thursday in Nashville and then later this month in Dallas. If the playoffs started today, it would be Stars-Predators in round one. And these teams are set to square off in the 2020 Winter Classic. There's some potential here for a good rivalry.

"I think all division games are," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "Obviously playing the Winter Classic against them maybe it's something that is going to build up a little bit. It feels good to beat them."

Video: Montgomery recaps exciting win in Nashville


5. Seguin scores again to stay red-hot

Seguin has scored nine goals in the last 11 games. ... Stars defenseman Esa Lindell had two assists in Saturday's game, a plus-three rating and a fighting major. ... The Stars are 2-0-1 in the season series against the Predators. ... Dallas improved to 7-6-1 against the Central Division, including 6-2-0 in their last eight against Central teams. ... The Predators outshot the Stars 39-26 and had a 70-45 advantage in shot attempts. ... gave Nashville a 21-14 edge in scoring chances and a 9-7 advantage in high-danger scoring chances. ... Jason Spezza led the Stars with five shots on goal and seven shot attempts. ... Janmark led the Stars with four scoring chances and three high-danger chances according to ... The Stars were 0-for-2 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. ... Dallas won 29 of 66 faceoffs (44 percent). Seguin won 11 of 21 draws (52 percent). Radek Faksa won 5 of 15 (33 percent). ... Miro Heiskanen led the Stars with 27:04 of ice time.

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

Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Brett Ritchie

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

Anton Khudobin
Ben Bishop

Scratched: Connor Carrick, Julius Honka
Injured: Jason Dickinson (lower body), Tyler Pitlick (upper body), 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 since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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