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With best players leading way, Stars happy to follow

Benn, Seguin and Radulov combine for seven points in Dallas' Game 5 win to show just how dangerous they can be

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Stars have been a hard-scoring team all season, and maybe that's why there's been so much hoopla surrounding their top players.

Both Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn saw their scoring ranking fall this season -- after being among the top 10 in scoring for the previous five seasons combined -- so some wondered if that was one reason the team was just 28th overall in putting the puck in the net. Others said the gap between the top three and the rest of the team was among the worst in the league, and that was the real problem.

Either way, how this team was going to get more goals was a consistent subject of conversation. And to be honest, even early in their first-round playoff series with the Nashville Predators, there was some amount of concern when you assessed their playoff scoring ability.

But not now, not after Games 4 and 5. Not after this team tallied 10 goals in two games, and the top line put together a clinic on pretty goals. Benn had three assists Saturday in a 5-3 win over the Predators that gives Dallas a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Seguin had a goal and an assist, Radulov had two goals.

It was a glorious display of just what that trio can do.

"It was pretty impressive, they drove play all of the time and they wanted more ice time," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery." A couple of times, Jamie was banging his stick and looking at me. They wanted it, they felt it, and they were playing well."

It was ironic that Montgomery mentioned the hunger to score, because Benn commented on just the same thing a few minutes earlier. The trio of plays scored by the line were tantalizing, with Seguin making a delicious cross-ice pass to Radulov for a slam dunk, Benn shoving Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis out of the way to feed Radulov for a second goal, and Benn making a nice rush up ice and feeding Seguin for the line's third goal.

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm5: Radulov converts Seguin's perfect pass

On the second Radulov goal, Benn saw the race to win the puck battle and prepared to make a pass. He said as he crashed into the end boards, he knew exactly where Radulov was.

"You kind of know right away. It's a race for the puck and you just want to do whatever you can to get that puck," Benn said. "I heard those guys calling behind me way before I had the puck -- they always want the puck."

Which might be the sign of great things to come. The line had some great scoring chances in the first period and were foiled by Pekka Rinne. Benn himself has had a series of chances that have been stopped. But instead of getting frustrated, the line is getting confident. It knows it can create scoring chances, and it knows it can finish those chances.

"It's always a positive when you're getting the chances," Benn said. "Pekka is a hell of a goalie. He's made some incredible saves in the series -- especially on myself -- so far. The positives are we're getting the chances. It obviously sucks to not score sometimes, but as long as you stick with it, keep going -- I thought that's what we did as a group and it paid off for us."

It's sort of a microcosm of the season. The top players have had to stick with it all year, through good times and bad, and that dedications has paid off.

Benn has a goal and five assists in five playoff games. Radulov has four goals and one assist. Seguin has two goals and three assists. It makes a difference.

"It's the right time of year for pucks to be going in," Montgomery said. "Our shooting percentage was like eight percent in the regular season. I don't know what it is, but the last two games, it's probably more like 14 percent." 

Video: DAL@NSH, Gm5: Seguin goes five-hole on Rinne

Meanwhile, Jason Dickinson contributed two goals Saturday, to add to the two goals previously scored by Roope Hintz -- to add to three goals previously scored by Mats Zuccarello. There is a ripple effect when the top guys score.

Montgomery has had to break the top line up at times this season to help spark the depth scoring. But now with Hintz and Dickinson getting confidence and Zuccarello getting healthy, the coach said he's pretty happy with keeping Benn-Seguin-Radulov together.

"I like mixing and matching those top six, because it depends on home or away," the coach said. "But if that top line is going to play like that, I'm not going to outsmart myself."

And that's fine with the players. They know that it can go both ways -- that the top line can be scoring, and the rest of the team can score, as well.

"I thought tonight was a clear team win," Seguin said. "Different guys stepped up at different times. Guys like Jason Dickinson getting two tonight, our goalie being the backbone again, a lot of our guys blocking shots. I thought (Radek) Faksa had a heck of a night, too. It's all a team effort right now, and no one cares who's getting the credit around here. It's fun hockey to play."

And you know the old saying, "If your best players are having fun … "

Well, maybe that's a new saying the Stars are just starting to define.

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.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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