Stars look to add Predators to list of ousted division winners
The Nashville Predators aim to avert being the third division champion to be bounced from the postseason when they visit the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round series on Monday.
The two-time defending Central Division champion Predators were pushed to the brink of elimination following their 5-3 setback at Nashville on Saturday.
With another loss, the Predators will join Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay (Atlantic) and Western Conference top-seed Calgary (Pacific) as division champions that made quick exits in the playoffs.
"We've played a lot of playoff games, we've been put in these situations and positions before," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "They've answered the bell, they'll answer the bell in Game 6 and we'll bring it back (to Nashville)."
Reigning Vezina Trophy recipient Pekka Rinne has struggled mightily in his last two games for the Predators, following up his early exit in Game 4 on Wednesday, in which he yielded four goals on eight shots in a 5-1 setback, by allowing five goals three days later.
"The bottom line is we're not playing good enough and we need to raise our level - everybody," Rinne said. "Otherwise it's going to be a short, short run. But you don't want to have any regrets and right now we've got to prove it on the ice. We've been talking a lot and we've had enough time to prove it, so now it's time."
Ben Bishop, who was named a Vezina Trophy finalist, has turned aside 159 of 170 shots in the series -- including 59 of 63 to split a pair of decisions in Dallas.
Alexander Radulov scored twice in the second period in Saturday's victory to double his series goal total while linemates Tyler Seguin and captain Jamie Benn also recorded multi-point performances.
Seguin scored and set up a goal and Benn matched the NHL playoff record for most assists in a single period with three to pull even with defenseman John Klingberg for the team lead with five.
"I think we keep getting better, and we have to keep getting better," Dallas coach Jim Montgomery said. "The next one's the hardest one because it's the potential to end someone's season. That's the challenge in front of us now."
The challenge for Nashville is to wake up the "JOFA Line" of Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg. The line has just two goals and four points in the series after combining for 76 and 162, respectively, during the regular season.
Viktor Arvidsson has been held without a point in the series after erupting for a franchise-record 34 goals in the regular season.
Johansen and Forsberg each have two points, with the former scoring a goal on Saturday.
"When it comes to the Johansen line, there's a lot of confidence from me, there's a lot of confidence from them as a line," Laviolette said, per the Tennessean.
"It's not something (where) we're ready to blow that line up. There's too much history. There's too much good that's gone on with that line."
Nashville has received unexpected goal production from fourth-liner Rocco Grimaldi, who has scored in three of his last four games after serving as a healthy scratch in the series opener. The 26-year-old mustered just five goals in 53 games this season.
--Field Level Media
Updated April 22, 2019