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5 things to know: Stars strike early, often to cruise past Preds

Dallas uses three power-play goals to fuel a first-period onslaught, knotting the series at two games apiece

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

It's now a best-of-three series.

The Dallas Stars power play came to life Wednesday night at American Airlines Center, scoring three times in a four-goal first period to fuel a 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators to even their first-round playoff series at 2-2. Game 5 is Saturday afternoon in Nashville.

Roope Hintz scored two goals, and Alexander Radulov, Andrew Cogliano, and Mats Zuccarello also scored. John Klingberg recorded three assists, and Ben Bishop stopped 34 shots.

Here are five things to know from Wednesday's game.

 

1. Stars use early onslaught to roll past Preds

Stars coach Jim Montgomery didn't want to label Game 4 a "must-win" for his team, but Wednesday's 5-1 victory over the Predators was big -- really big. It tied the series at 2-2 and kept the Stars from heading back to Nashville down 3-1 in the series.

"It's huge. There is no other way to say it," Montgomery said. "At 3-1 there is such a small margin for error. Now, we get to play aggressively and on our toes and hopefully push the series."

The Stars pushed hard early on Wednesday, wasting little time in putting the Predators on their heels. The Stars scored twice on the power play in the first five minutes of the game, pushed the lead to 3-0 by the 8:24 mark of the first period and took a 4-0 lead into the first intermission.

"I thought we created a lot of momentum and they were on their heels, we just kept coming, and goals went in," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "It helps a lot (to get the lead), but we would just focus on the next shift throughout the whole game. We kept playing the way we wanted to and did a really good job."

The Stars scored on their first two shots of the game, both coming on the power play, to take a 2-0 lead 4:58 into the game.

Roope Hintz scored from the top of the left circle on the first power play at the 3:42 mark, and Alexander Radulov tallied from the slot on the second power play 4:58 into the game.

The Stars pushed the lead to 3-0 at 8:24 when Blake Comeau put a shot on net from the right circle off the rush and Andrew Cogliano scored on the rebound. The Stars took advantage of their fourth power play of the first period to push the lead to 4-0 on a Mats Zuccarello goal from the slot at the 13:45 mark.

The Zuccarello goal ended the night for Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who allowed four goals on eight shots and was replaced by Juuse Saros.

The Stars pushed the lead to 5-0 in the second period on the second goal of the night for Hintz, who took a pass from Klingberg and scored from the bottom of the left circle.

Nashville got on the scoreboard at 8:11 of the third on a Roman Josi shot from the point, but that's all it could muster.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm4: Stars strike early with four goals

 

2. Power play comes to life

After going 0-for-10 in the Game 2 and Game 3 losses, the Stars' power play came to life, scoring three times on four chances in the first period to bury the Predators early.

The Stars scored on their first two power plays, tallying on their first shot on both. After missing on a third chance, they cashed in on their fourth.

"We changed it up a little bit and talked about it, had video meetings to see what we could do," said Stars defenseman John Klingberg. "Just an unbelievable shot by Roope to get us going and then we got momentum from that and confidence."

"I thought it was the puck movement, the convergence on the net and retrieving pucks afterward," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "We outworked their penalty kill."

There was some juggling of the power-play units. The first unit had Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, Mats Zuccarello, and Klingberg. The second unit included Alexander Radulov, Jason Spezza, Justin Dowling, Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen.

The Stars ended the night 3-for-6 on the power play and are now 4-for-19 in the series.

Blake Comeau drew the first and fourth Dallas power plays, both high sticking calls on Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm.

The Dallas penalty kill was 2-for-2 Wednesday and is now 10-for-10 in the series.

Video: Klingberg discusses Game 4 offensive explosion

 

3. Bishop bounces back

After giving up a couple of tough goals in Monday's 3-2 loss, Stars goaltender Ben Bishop bounced back with a solid performance in Game 4, stopping 34 of 35 shots in the 5-1 victory.

"It's nice," Bishop said. "Obviously, the guys did a nice job in front of me and the first 15 minutes made it a little easier on me. I thought everybody top to bottom played a great game."

Bishop told FOX Sports Southwest that his approach heading into Game 4 was no different than any other game even though he was coming off a rough outing.

"It's a long season, and there's going to be some stinkers in there," Bishop said. "Last game there was a couple in there, and you can't do anything about it. Just move on."

The players in front of Bishop were strong defensively, allowing just ten high-danger chances and only seven during five-on-five play according to naturalstattrick.com. But Bishop was sharp as well and played a typical Ben Bishop game.

"He stopped the puck, corralled rebounds, and broke the puck out," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "He did what he did for us all year long."

Video: Bishop on bounce-back performance in Stars' victory

 

4. Penalty issues, leaky goaltending bite Preds hard

The Predators had a chance to put the Stars on the ropes, but a dismal first period dashed those hopes. The Predators dug themselves a hole with penalty issues, taking four minors in the first 12 minutes and surrendering three power-play goals.

"That's what happened," said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. "We went to the box, and they scored three power-play goals."

Nashville was shorthanded 251 times during the regular season, eighth-most in the league. They've already put the Stars on the power play 19 times in four games during this season.

"It hurt us, so discipline is definitely something that is on the plate," Laviolette said. "We've got to play a cleaner game."

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm4: Zuccarello nets Stars' third PPG

 

5. Stars match franchise record with big opening frame

The four goals in the first period Wednesday equaled the most scored in a single playoff period since the team moved to Dallas in 1993-94. The last time the Stars scored four goals in a playoff period was April 27, 2008 in the third period against San Jose. 

The franchise record for most goals in a playoff period is five, done five times and most recently on April 24, 1991 as the North Stars defeated St. Louis 8-4.

The Stars scored three power-play goals in a playoff period for the first time since the team moved to Dallas. The franchise record for power play goals in a playoff period stands at four, done twice, the last time on April 24, 1991 as the North Stars defeated St. Louis 8-4.

Other notables: The Predators outshot the Stars 35-29 and had a 71-49 advantage in shot attempts. ... Naturalstattrick.com had the high-danger chances 11-10, Nashville. ... Alexander Radulov led the Stars with five shots on goal and seven shot attempts. ... The Stars won 40 of 75 faceoffs (53 percent). ... Radek Faksa won 11 of 18 faceoffs (61 percent). Jason Spezza won 9 of 10. ... Esa Lindell led the Stars with 22:28 of ice time.

Here is the lineup the Stars used to start Wednesday's game.

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

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Ben Lovejoy

Ben Bishop
Anton Khudobin

Injured: Mattias Janmark (lower body)
Scratched: Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie, Taylor Fedun, Julius Honka, Landon Bow, Joel Hanley, Dillon Heatherington, Gavin Bayreuther, Denis Gurianov, Joel L'Esperance, Nick Caamano, Adam Mascherin
Injured Reserve: Martin Hanzal (back), Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), Marc Methot (knee surgery)

Video: Bogorad, Razor break down series after Stars' rout

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.

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