1. Stars put Predators on ropes with Game 5 win
The Stars went into Nashville Saturday afternoon and put the Predators on the ropes in their first-round playoff series. The Stars fell behind early but took over the game starting about midway through the first period and rolled to a 5-3 win and a 3-2 series lead.
"We come into every game desperate," Stars captain Jamie Benn told NBC following the game. "[The Predators] are a good team and we can't have any let-up. We came in with a good mentality, a working mentality and got the job done."
The Stars took control of the game with a three-goal second period, all three coming from the top line of Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov.
"We were working hard," said Seguin. "I thought our first period as a line was good. We had a lot of chances - we didn't cash in on them, and we didn't get too rattled by it. Obviously, the second period was good."
The Stars have the series lead and have been the better team overall through five games, but it is far from over. Closing out the Predators Monday night in Dallas will be a stiff challenge.
"We did a lot of good things," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "I think we keep getting better and we have to keep getting better, the next one is the hardest one because it's the potential to end someone's season, so that's a challenge in front of us now."
On Saturday, Rocco Grimaldi got the Predators on the board first, scoring from close range off the rush 6:25 into the game. The Stars answered at the 13:08 mark when Roope Hintz finished off a great shift by the second line, circling behind the net and setting up Jason Dickinson who scored from close range.
The Stars' top line had some great chances in the first, but Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped back-to-back bids by Radulov and Benn shortly after the Grimaldi goal and then denied Seguin from close range with just two seconds left in the period after a turnover by P.K Subban.
But the Stars top line scored three times in the second period as the Stars built a 4-2 lead through 40 minutes. After pinning the Predators in their own zone, Benn got the puck to Seguin who sent the puck cross-ice to Radulov who scored from close range to put the Stars up 2-1 just 40 seconds into the period.
The Stars made it 3-1 at the 7:41 mark when Benn knocked Ryan Ellis off the puck behind the Nashville net and set up Radulov, who scored from the slot.
"[Benn] can put some fear in some guys' eyes out there," Seguin said. "When he's on the forecheck, you saw a couple of those goals; not many players want to go get the puck with him going in the corner. I wouldn't."
After Nashville's Ryan Johansen cut the lead to 3-2 on a close-range shot at the 9:18 mark, Dallas' top line pushed the lead to 4-2 with a goal off the rush when Benn set up a wide-open Seguin who scored from the slot at the 15:54 mark.
The Stars extended the lead to 5-2 early in the third when Dickinson capitalized on an Austin Watson turnover and scored on a blast from the slot at the 1:57 mark. The Predators answered 28 seconds later on a goal by Kyle Turris whose centering pass for Brian Boyle deflected into the net off the skate of Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.
The Predators had a lot of zone time after that and one power play chance, but couldn't get another puck past Stars goaltender Ben Bishop, who made 15 of his 30 saves in the third period.
And now it's back to Dallas where the Stars can close out the series Monday night.
"It takes four to win," Benn said. "We've got one more to close it out, and it's going to be even harder than the first five games."
Video: DAL@NSH, Gm5: Radulov converts Seguin's perfect pass
2. Top line dominates
The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov was dominant Saturday in Game 5. After generating some quality chances in the first period that they couldn't finish, the trio racked up three goals in the second period that helped the Stars build a 4-2 lead that the Predators were not able to overcome.
The Stars' big three forwards combined for three goals, four assists and 16 shots on goal in the game. They were a plus-6 (21-15) in shot attempts 5-on-5 and a plus-5 (8-3) in high-danger chances.
"It was pretty impressive," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "They drove play all the time. They wanted more ice time. A couple of times Jamie was banging his stick and looking at me. They wanted it, they felt it, and they were playing well."
So far in the series, the big three have played together 36:58 during five-on-five play and have outscored the opposition, 5-0, and have a 23-9 advantage in high-danger scoring chances.
"It's fun hockey. We've been together for two years now," Benn told NBC. "Myself and Segs have been together for a while. We just have fun, try to work hard, lead the way out here on the ice. Thought we played a pretty good game tonight."
Benn (one goal, five assists), Radulov (four goals, one assist), and Seguin (2 goals, 3 assists) have combined for 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in the series.
It helps that the Stars continue to get production down the lineup as well.
The second line chipped in two goals Saturday, both by Jason Dickinson. He scored off a great play by Roope Hintz to tie the game 1-1 in the first period and then took advantage of a turnover and scored off a blast from the slot to extend the Dallas lead to 5-2 early in the third.
"I go back to it all the time, but I think him and Roope and the deep run they had in the Calder Cup Playoffs last year toughened them up," Montgomery said. "They relish these games now. They know how to execute; you see them have poise with chips in the d-zone and it's fun to watch those young players blossom."
Video: DAL@NSH, Gm5: Seguin goes five-hole on Rinne
3. Bishop named Vezina Trophy finalist
During the first intermission, the NHL announced that Ben Bishop was one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the top goaltender in the league. Bishop led the league in save percentage (.934), ranked second in goals against average (1.98) and was third in shutouts (seven).
Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning are the other finalists.
"It's a great honor," Bishop said. "As much as it is an individual award, it's a team thing. The guys have done a great job in front of me all season. It's an honor, but it's a great team recognition."
This is the third time Bishop has been a finalist for the award. He finished second in the voting in 2015-16 and third in 2013-14.
"It's huge. I can't say it's really a surprise," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "We all know how good Bish is. That's a great nomination to get and well deserved. He's put in a lot of hard work and been through a little bit of adversity this year, which goes to show the professional he is and the competitor he is.
"He comes to work every day, grinds and it starts in practice and translates to the game. A great honor for him."
Video: Bishop on Game 5 win, being named finalist for Vezina
4. Mistakes prove costly for Predators
The Predators had no answer for the Stars top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov which scored three times in the game, all in the second period when the Stars took control of the game.
"You know that they're dangerous players," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "It seems like the mistakes that we made were obvious tonight, and once we made them they were in the back of our net. I don't feel like it was a point where we were under siege, I just felt like when we made a mistake it was costly, and it turned over quick, and it had a result to the end of it.
"Those are the ones we have to clean up."
The Predators were credited with 19 giveaways in the game.
"It's almost like those unforced errors in tennis," Laviolette said. "There are times where you turn it over because you're under duress, and there's just times where we don't make the right decisions, and it ended poorly."
Forward Brian Boyle, who underwent an appendectomy within the past week, was back in the lineup for the Predators on Saturday. Wayne Simmonds (lower-body) remained out of the lineup. Rocco Grimaldi scored his team-leading third goal.
Video: Montgomery on Game 5: 'Next one is the hardest one'
5. Benn ties NHL record
Stars captain Jamie Benn's three assists in the second period Saturday tied the NHL record for most assists in one playoff period.
The Stars scored at least five goals in consecutive playoff games for the ninth time in franchise history and first since Game 3-4 of the 1991 Conference Final, according to NHL Public Relations.
The Predators outshot the Stars 33-26 and had a 65-44 advantage in shot attempts. ... High-danger chances were 12-9 Nashville, according to naturalstattrick.com. ... Tyler Seguin led the Stars with 8 shots on goal. Benn and Seguin both had three high-danger chances. ... The Stars were 0-for-2 on the power play and 1-for-1 on the penalty kill. Dallas is 11-for-11 on the penalty kill in the series. ... The Stars won 29 of 62 faceoffs (47 percent). Seguin won 13 of 22 faceoffs (59 percent). ... Roope Hintz won 6 of 9 (67 percent). Radek Faksa won 5 of 8 (38 percent). ... Esa Lindell led the Stars with 26:33 of ice time.
Here's the lineup the Stars used to start Saturday'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
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: Stars post 5-3 win in Game 5, grab series lead
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.