NASHVILLE — Rookie Miro Heiskanen scored two goals in his first post-season game, and the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Wednesday night in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference series.
Heiskanen became the eighth rookie teenage defenceman in NHL history to score a goal in their first career playoff game and the first since Adam Larsson with New Jersey on May 1, 2012, against Philadelphia, according to NHL Stats. He also became the third-youngest with a multi-goal game and the youngest in franchise history with a post-season goal at 19 years, 266 days.
Mats Zuccarello also scored, helping Dallas continue its success from the regular season in Nashville, where the Stars won twice.
Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each scored for Nashville.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday night in Nashville.
Subban pulled the Predators within a goal with 6:36 left in regulation, beating Ben Bishop’s glove with a wrister from the right circle. Nashville got a power play with 4:52 remaining, and coach Peter Laviolette pulled goalie Pekka Rinne with 3:13 left. The Predators couldn’t force overtime.
The Predators came in with much more playoff experience after reaching the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and going a full seven games last spring before losing in the second round. The post-season party started as usual with at least one catfish tossed onto the ice and fans who couldn’t get into the sold-out Bridgestone Arena watching outside at the park across the street.
This is the first time these Central Division rivals have met in the post-season, timely with Nashville scheduled to play Dallas in the Winter Classic in the Cotton Bowl next season. The Predators came into the playoffs having won five of their last six to win their second straight division title with a win on the final night of the season.
Dallas finished 5-1-1 to grab the first wild card in the West for the Stars’ first playoff berth since 2016.
The Stars went with Bishop in net after he posted a career-high seven shutouts during the regular season. He also led the NHL with a .934 save percentage and was second in the league with a 1.98 goals-against average. He made 30 saves for the win.
Josi, who led Nashville with six points in five games against the Stars during the regular season, gave the Predators a 1-0 lead with a backhander from the slot as he skated across at 12:12 of the first.
Nashville forward Brian Boyle, acquired from New Jersey in a trade Feb. 6, sent Stars centre Jason Dickinson to the locker room after a collision about 9 minutes into the first. Dickinson returned in the second.
Heiskanen tied it at 12:37 of the second with the puck deflecting off the knee of Predators defenceman Mattias Ekholm. Dallas nearly took the lead off a shot by Roope Hintz with Dickinson following, only to see Rinne stop the puck on the line with the back of his skate 15:00 into the second.
The rookie defenceman scored his second at 6:10 of the third with a similar long shot that beat Rinne with Alexander Radulov in front of the goalie. Zuccarello padded the lead off a rebound, beating Rinne between the legs at 10:39.
NOTES: Heiskanen set a franchise record with 33 points by a teenage defenceman. He also was one of only three Stars to play all 82 games this season. … The Predators went 35-4-1 this season when scoring first and had been 24-7 all-time when scoring first in the playoffs.
Game 2 in Nashville on Saturday night.
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press