During the Stars' first-round playoff series victory, Tyler Seguin probably got tired of hearing the questions about his goal-scoring.
In almost every Zoom call with reporters or intermission interview, in a radio show or a television hit, Seguin was reminded that he hadn't scored a goal in the postseason. His play had improved dramatically through the playoffs, but the goals hadn't followed his play-making, shot-creating or hit-throwing.
As the Stars won Game 1 of the second round over the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on Saturday night, Seguin finally found the back of the net. So did his friend, Alexander Radulov. And they were helped by buddy Jamie Benn.
It was enough for Dallas to outduel Colorado's top line in an entertaining series opener.
"We're not going anywhere without our top players," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said. "Their top players performed tonight, and so did ours."
The Stars' top line of Benn, Seguin and Radulov was explosive Saturday night, displaying the top-end skill and finishing that raised both their salaries and expectations in Dallas. Radulov scored twice and assisted on another goal. Seguin had a goal and an assist, snapping a 12-game goalless streak that dated to February. Benn picked up three assists.
In total, the Stars' top line piled up eight points. In the Stars' first nine playoff games, Benn, Seguin and Radulov totaled 10 points.
"I think it all starts with our work, when we're skating, when we work, when help each other, when we play the body," Radulov said. "I think we get those chances and breaks. Just got to continue that, and everybody. Today, it's us. Maybe, next game will be different guys. It doesn't matter. We just need to win games. That's the bottom line."
Seguin: "When we're connected on the forecheck, when we're competing, especially early on in the first few shifts. That's usually a good indicator that we're going and tonight, we were definitely going."
Colorado's top line did its best to keep the battered Avalanche in the game, with Nathan MacKinnon scoring twice and Gabriel Landeskog once. MacKinnon leads the NHL with 16 playoff points in nine games, helping the Avs weather the losses of starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer, forward Matt Calvert (before the game) and defenseman Erik Johnson (throughout the game).
Blake Comeau also scored for Dallas on a deflected slap shot from the blue line, and Roope Hintz added an insurance goal in the third period on a quick-release shot past Pavel Francouz.
For so much of the Stars' postseason run so far, Benn-Seguin-Radulov have played second fiddle to scorers like Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov (both with six goals). In the seven-goal offensive outburst the Stars staged in Game 6 vs. Calgary, their big three weren't on the ice for any goals. The moments were there, like in Game 2 against Calgary when they were reunited and scored almost instantly.
But they were never a game-changing force like they were in Game 1 against the Avs.
On Saturday, the top line was a disruptive force in scoring the first goal of the game. Benn pick-pocketed Johnson behind the net, Radulov recovered the loose puck, and then Benn set up Seguin in front of the net. It all happened in six seconds, turning forechecking into offense quickly and setting the tone for a great first period for Dallas.
Benn was crucial again in the next two goals for the Stars, both by Radulov.
Benn led the rush after the Stars exited their zone, and settled a bouncing puck before sliding it over to Radulov, who finished with a smooth backhand between Grubauer's legs. On Radulov's second-period goal, it was Benn with a smart pass to a streaking Seguin, springing him for a 2 on 1 and setting up Radulov's rebound goal.
"He sets the tone with his physicality No. 1, his voice on the bench and in the dressing room," Seguin said. "You usually know when he's going and tonight he was definitely going. We just kind of hopped on his back to start. That's why he's our leader and our captain."
Bowness added: "When Jamie's skating north and he's a beast like that, like we all know, he's a difficult man to handle."
Benn was also instrumental in Colorado's third goal of the game, dropping a pass past Miro Heiskanen into his own zone, forcing Heiskanen to break out of the zone while tired. Heiskanen lost the puck and then was beaten to the net by MacKinnon, who tipped the puck home for his second goal of the night.
Still, it was Benn's first three-assist game since Game 5 of the Nashville series last season, when the Stars took control against the Predators, and Benn memorably shoved Ryan Ellis aside leading to a Dallas goal. It was Radulov's first two-goal playoff game since that same game against Nashville.
Saturday night was the best signal the Stars could have hoped for in Game 1.
Pavelski and Gurianov had already taken over games against the Flames. Heiskanen and John Klingberg did the same from the back end. But the Stars' top line — which features two of the top four highest-paid players remaining in the playoffs — hadn't.
"Do we need them to score? Absolutely," Bowness said. "Do we need them to buy in and help lead the way defensively, which they certainly did in the third period? That was impressive as well."
When the Stars beat the Predators last year in the playoffs, that line was a big part of it. When the Stars lost to the Blues in the second round, the lack of production from them was a big part of it.
Now? Well, the Stars owned the best line on the ice in Game 1, and it's a huge step forward in beating the Avalanche.
"It's huge for us," Comeau said. "Obviously, we rely on them a lot to produce for us offensively. But not only that, but Seggy takes some big faceoffs for us, Jamie had some big blocks for us tonight. When Rads is playing like that, he's a horse on the puck. They definitely led the way for us tonight, I felt like the rest of the group followed. Moving forward, we're definitely going to need those guys to lead the way."
Briefly: Forward Mattias Janmark returned to the Stars' lineup after missing Game 6 against Calgary with an injury. Goaltender Ben Bishop and defenseman Stephen Johns remained unfit to play. It was Bishop's fourth straight missed game, and the sixth in a row for Johns.
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