DALLAS (AP) — Viktor Arvidsson came into the season with eight NHL goals. He’s nearly quadrupled that total.
The 23-year-old Arvidsson had two goals and two assists, and the Nashville Predators beat the Dallas Stars 7-3 on Thursday night to remain one point out of third place in the Central Division.
Arvidsson has 31 goals and 30 assists this season, and is tied for the team lead with Ryan Johansen at 61 points.
“It’s hard to say you believe you’re going to score 30 goals,” he said. “I believed I can do it, but it’s a long road there and you got to work hard.”
Predators coach Peter Laviolette credited Arvidsson’s work ethic for helping him reach that level.
“I think everybody in the room is just happy for him,” Laviolette said. “He earned his 30 goals. Coming into the year not knowing what kind of a year he’s going to have to this point right now is special for him.”
Craig Smith had two goals and an assist, and Kevin Fiala, Harry Zolnierczyk and Roman Josi also scored for the Predators, who kept pace with St. Louis in the division. Juuse Saros stopped 30 shots for his 10th win, and P.K. Subban and Anthony Bitetto had two assists apiece.
By finishing the season in third place, Nashville would play second-place Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs. As a wild card, the Predators would open the postseason against one of the Western Conference’s division winners.
Jason Spezza, Radek Faksa and Jason Dickinson scored for the Stars. Antti Niemi started and gave up two goals on eight shots over the first 13:02 before being replaced by Kari Lehtonen, who finished with 21 saves.
The Predators’ seven goals tied their season high, and matched their total for the previous five games. They were 1-4 in that stretch.
“We’re always looking for offense,” Laviolette said. “Some nights we get lots of looks and lots of opportunities and they drop, and some nights they don’t. Tonight it was good.”
Arvidsson scored both his goals and assisted on Smith’s first in the opening period to help the Predators take a 4-0 lead. Arvidsson reached 30 goals by tipping in Smith’s pass from the left-wing boards just 1:06 into the game.
“We were able to get an early goal,” Laviolette said. “That to me can always set the tone of the game, just a good play putting the puck at the net and somebody going at the net.”
It was Arvidsson picking up a loose puck in the neutral zone and passing to Smith for the second goal, which ended Niemi’s night.
“Those are two tough goals that went in,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Two goals that our goaltender has got to get for us.”
Goals by Fiala and by Arvidsson, off defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s stick, gave Nashville a 4-0 lead after one period.
Zolnierczyk made it 5-0 just 1:06 into the second.
After the Stars pulled within two, Josi scored on a slap shot from the top of the right circle into the upper left corner during a 5-on-3 power play to put the Predators back up by three with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining in the middle period.
NOTES: Nashville won the season series 3-2. Before Spezza scored, the Predators had 10 consecutive goals in the last two games vs. Dallas, including a 5-3 home win on Feb. 12. . Stars rookie C Justin Dowling left in the first period with an upper-body injury, and did not return. Oleksiak left in the second after being hit by the puck. A cut was stitched, and he returned. … Dickinson’s two goals this season have come in the past two games. … Faksa had five points (one goal, four assists) in the five games vs. Nashville. Spezza is on a four-game point streak with five points (three goals, two assists).
Predators: Finish the regular season on Saturday at Winnipeg.
Stars: Host Colorado on Saturday in the final game for both teams.