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Stars see crucial Game 4 as 'must-win situation' at home

Dallas knows it will need to be better to prevent the Predators from seizing control of the series

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars liked how they played in Monday's Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators. They didn't like the result.

A 3-2 loss to the Predators has left the Stars down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series and facing a crucial Game 4 Wednesday night at American Airlines Center (7 p.m. CT; FS-SW, USA Network; KTCK).

The playoffs can be a roller coaster of emotion with each win and loss, but the Stars are trying to stay on an even keel as they move from game to game.

"Usually when you lose a game you start doubting or thinking what can you do differently. We played a good game but in the playoffs, it is important to find ways to win. They did that last game," said Stars forward Mats Zuccarello. "We've got to stick to our game and believe in what we do. I think all in all we played a really good game. There's no point to overanalyze our game. Stuff like that happens; it's the playoffs.

"We're playing a good team, a good goalie, a good defense, everything like that. Play our game, focus on ourselves; keep doing what we are doing and believe in that."

Video: Benn calls series with Predators a 'chess match'

The Stars dominated a good part of Monday's game and held a big edge in a lot of statistical categories such as shots, shot attempts and chances. But the goals for and goals against went Nashville's way. The Stars expect the Predators to be better on Wednesday, especially with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. The Stars will need to match the effort to pull even at 2-2.

"We're going to see a really good team next game that smells blood, and we have to make sure that we are going to up our level," said Stars forward Jason Spezza. "You prepare yourself for a long series right from the start of the series, and now we need to go out and have a desperate game in a must-win situation.

"It's all must-win at this point. We're going to see them up their game, and we have to be able to keep upping ours."

Stars coach Jim Montgomery said he was still reviewing video of Monday's game when he met with the media Tuesday afternoon at American Airlines Center. He liked a lot of what he saw in the game, but said he'll be looking to make adjustments because he expects Nashville to make moves to improve and the Stars will need to counter.

"Every game this series the intensity and the pace has gotten higher," Montgomery said, "and what I liked is we got better from Game 2 to Game 3. We need to get better from Game 3 to Game 4. We didn't win Game 3. Individually we need to get better, as a staff we need to get better, and as a group we need to be better if we are going to even this series up."


Putting the 'power' back in power play

The Stars power play has come up short in the last two games, going a combined 0-for-10 in the Game 2 and Game 3 losses in the series. It was 0-for-6 in Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss in Nashville and 0-for-4 Monday night in the 3-2 loss in Dallas.

"We're not making them uncomfortable, and we have to make them uncomfortable," said Montgomery. "We have to look at making tweaks to try to make them uncomfortable by getting more pucks and people and sticks to the net."

Since cashing in on their second chance on the power play in the first game of the series, the Stars have missed on their last eleven opportunities, including a four-minute chance in Game 2 and a five-on-three opportunity for 1:29 in Game 3.

"I think we just have to get set up first," said Spezza. "They do a good job of pressuring you, and teams that play that stand-the-line type penalty kill have the tendency to frustrate the other team that's on the power play. We have to work on getting set up first and foremost. Once we get set up, we just have to attack.

"This time of year, it's not pretty. It's shots and rebounds and tips and something ugly usually goes in as opposed to trying to be too finicky with your plays. As the game goes on the seams open up and stuff opens up, but early it is an attack mentality."

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm1: Heiskanen's shot deflects in for PPG


Backing Bishop

The play of Stars goaltender Ben Bishop drew a lot of attention after Monday's loss to the Predators. Bishop, who was brilliant in the regular season and helped get the Stars into the playoffs, had a rough game, allowing two tough goals in the 3-2 defeat.

Rocco Grimaldi scored from the right half-wall early in the second period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead and Mikael Granlund snapped a 2-2 tie with a shot from the right point that Bishop said was deflected.

Teammates were quick to defend Bishop on Tuesday.

"We've got the most confidence in Bish," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "We obviously wouldn't be here without him. He's been one of the best goalies in the league, especially down the stretch. Sure he'd want some of those shots back, but there's nothing we can do about it now. We're going to move forward and look forward to Game 4."

"He's our best player," said Zuccarello. "He's going to be the difference for us, I think, if we are going to win the series. It happens. He's bailed us out so many times it is time for us to help him out more. We don't worry about that. He's still going to be our best player tomorrow."

Montgomery said he never worries about Bishop and that Bishop would be back in goal Wednesday for Game 4 of the series.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm3: Bishop denies Arvidsson's redirect


This and that
  • The Stars held an optional practice at American Airlines Center Tuesday afternoon.

  • Montgomery said forward Mattias Janmark, who missed Monday's game with a lower-body injury, is day-to-day.

  • Montgomery said he expects forward Jason Spezza to be back in the lineup again Wednesday. Spezza played Monday after being a healthy scratch the first two games of the series and played 14:26, had three shots on goal, seven shot attempts and won 9 of 14 faceoffs. "I thought Spezza was really good," Montgomery said. "And I do expect him to be back in the game tomorrow."

  • Montgomery also discussed the play of defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who dressed Monday after being scratched the first two games. Oleksiak played 10:45 on the third pair and led the Stars with six hits. Physicality," Montgomery said, "played with purpose and really separated bodies and allowed us to break out of our end quicker than we have in the past."

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 since 2012. Follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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