1. Stars weather early storm, push back to take Game 1
The Stars expected a big push from Nashville early Wednesday night, and they got it.
The Predators were on top of Dallas early with pressure and physical play and grabbed a 1-0 lead they took into the first intermission. But the Stars started to play their game in the second period, tied the game and then scored two goals in the first half of the third period to build a 3-1 lead in the game. Then they held off the Predators the rest of the way.
"We knew they were going to come out hard," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "We were happy with our first period, but we settled in pretty good and took over the game. That's exactly how we wanted to play. We did a good job."
The Predators put five shots on goal in the first 68 seconds of the game and Ben Bishop had a couple of big saves to keep them off the board. The Predators were physical early in the game, recording 14 hits in the first period including a big one by Brian Boyle on Jason Dickinson that sidelined the Dallas forward for about 20 minutes of game time.
Nashville scored the only goal of the first. After a Colton Sissons hit on Miro Heiskanen helped the Predators win a puck battle, the puck moved around to Roman Josi at the left point, and the Predators defenseman worked his way into the slot and scored off a backhand shot at the 12:12 mark.
The Stars pushed back in the second period and scored on their second power play of the night to tie the game 1-1. After a great chance by Roope Hintz driving the net, the puck went to Miro Heiskanen at the point, and the Stars defenseman put a move on Predators forward Austin Watson to open a shooting lane, and his shot from the point deflected in the net off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm.
Heiskanen helped put the Stars ahead 2-1 in the third period. After losing a faceoff in the Nashville zone, the Stars got the puck back, and John Klingberg set up Heiskanen whose shot from the left point was deflected into the net by Alexander Radulov at the 6:10 mark. A little more than four minutes later, the Stars were up 3-1. Jamie Benn won a puck battle behind the Nashville net, got puck to Ben Lovejoy who put a shot on goal from the right point, and Mats Zuccarello scored on the rebound at the 10:39 mark.
"Jamie Benn's will and determination, he can't be stopped," said Montgomery. "When he wants to win that puck, he's going to go win it. That's why he's our captain."
Nashville made it interesting on a slick goal by defenseman P.K. Subban, who eluded a couple of Dallas defenders and scored from the right circle to make it a 3-2 game with 6:36 left. Nashville got a late power play - their fourth of the game - but couldn't cash in. They pulled goaltender Pekka Rinne for an extra attacker, but couldn't get the equalizer.
"We started with a win, that's nice," Zuccarello said on the Stars TV broadcast. "It's only one game. It's a long series. We're going to be excited tonight and prepare for our next game."
Video: Heiskanen scores twice as Stars top Preds in Game 1
2. Miro's big night
There was a lot of talk about experience heading into Game 1 of this series, the Predators having a lot and the Stars not as much. Seven Dallas players were making their NHL playoff debuts, and several were outstanding for the Stars in their 3-2 victory.
Nineteen-year-old rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen led the way, scoring on the power play to tie the game 1-1 in the second period and then getting a shot on net in the third that Alexander Radulov deflected home to put the Stars up 2-1 in the third.
"I am not surprised anymore, but it is truly impressive," said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop. "He plays like he has been in the league ten years. He just goes about his business quietly, efficiently. This guy is going to be a star in this league for a long time."
"What a game," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "The kid comes to play every night. He prepares like a true professional and approaches the game like a true professional. (He) played a pretty damn good game tonight."
Heiskanen who had an impressive rookie campaign, his first pro season in North America, logged 23:24 of ice time Wednesday, had three shots on goal and five shot attempts and weathered a storm of physical play from the Predators early in the game.
"Like I've said all year, I am glad we have him," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery.
Heiskanen (19 Years, 266 Days) is the eighth rookie teenage defenseman in NHL history to record a goal in their first career playoff game.
Heiskanen said he kept the focus on his game, not that he was making his playoff debut.
"Play my game and try to do my thing," Heiskanen said. "Try to do my best and don't think about it's a playoff game. Do my thing and enjoy it."
Forward Roope Hintz, another player making his NHL playoff debut, had a big game as well, leading the Stars with six shots on goal and six scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com.
"It's amazing because the first-time players were our best players," said Stars coach Montgomery. "I thought they led everybody else to come along with them. It's great to have young players like Hintz, (Jason) Dickinson, and obviously Miro. I am probably forgetting someone."
Video: Heiskanen relishes historic first playoff experience
3. Stars win special teams battle
Special teams could play a big role in this series, and Wednesday night the advantage went to the Stars. Both teams have excellent penalty kills, but the Stars' power play ranked 11th in the league during the regular season while the Predators' was dead last.
Dallas was 1-for-3 on the power play Wednesday and Nashville was 0-for-4, and the fourth chance came late in the third period with a chance to tie the game.
"There were chances, still some of the execution could be better," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of the team's four power plays. "There were some opportunities to score, we didn't cash in. At the end of the day, the specialty teams are going to decide hockey games, and the nod went to them tonight."
The Stars got a solid performance from their second power-play unit of Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa, Justin Dowling, Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen, which scored one goal and created several good chances.
"The second unit was great," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "The first unit needs to be much better."
The first unit had Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Mats Zuccarello, and John Klingberg.
Video: DAL@NSH, Gm1: Heiskanen's shot deflects in for PPG
4. Predators can't take advantage of home ice
The road team won three of the five playoff games as the Stanley Cup Playoffs opened Wednesday night. Road teams have had some success recently against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville fell to 3-5-0 in their last eight home playoff games with Wednesday night's Game 1 loss to the Stars.
The Predators got the start they wanted Wednesday night, but from the beginning of the second period to almost midway through the third, the Stars had control of the game and were able to build a 3-1 lead.
"We were in our building. We came out the right way, and then we lost our way. We lost the game, so there's nothing encouraging about tonight," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. "We know we are capable of playing at a high speed with high gears and a competitiveness. It went their way."
Said Predators defenseman Roman Josi: "I think we need to look at things that we need to do better on and focus on Game 2. You have to put it behind you quick; it's a playoff series, so there are a lot of highs and a lot of lows. You have to stay even, put it behind you, and look at some things."
Video: Montgomery says 'first time players' were Stars' best
5. Dickinson hurt after massive hit early, returns to game
Stars forward Jason Dickinson, who left the game in the first period after a big hit from Nashville's Brian Boyle and then returned in the second, went through concussion protocol, according to Stars coach Jim Montgomery.
The Predators outshot the Stars 32-29 and had a 64-56 advantage in shot attempts. ... High-danger scoring chances were 13-9, Nashville, according to naturalstattrick.com. ... Roope Hintz led the Stars with six shots on goal. ... John Klingberg had nine shot attempts. ... Dallas won 20 of 53 faceoffs (38 percent). ... Radek Faksa won 7 of 13 faceoffs (54 percent). ... Tyler Seguin won 5 of 18 (28 percent). ... Esa Lindell led the Stars with 27:27 of ice time.
Here is the lineup the Stars used to start Wednesday's game.
Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy
Scratched: Valeri Nichushkin, Jason Spezza, Brett Ritchie, Jamie Oleksiak, Julius Honka, Landon Bow
Injured Reserve: Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)
Video: Josh Bogorad and Daryl Reaugh on Stars' Game 1 win
This post has been updated to reflect a late scoring change. For complete postseason coverage, visit Stars Playoff Central.
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.