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Stars Take Season Sweep of Avalanche, Win 3-2 in Overtime

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Thanks mostly to Ben Bishop.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars concluded their western road trip in Denver tonight, taking on Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche.

Other stories: Kohn Klingberg returns after missing four games. The Stars are a perfect 3-0 against the Avalanche this year. The Stars haven’t been this close to a season series sweep since the 2016-17 season, when they dropped the first game to the Avalanche but won the next four.

The Avalanche have been plagued by injury recently and are coming off a three-game losing streak. The Stars are 9-4-1 since the coaching change in December and were on a six-game win streak before Saturday’s loss to the San Jose Sharks.

First Period

Let’s go ahead and get ahead of ourselves on this period with a fun graph.

This heat map is for unblocked shots, and it’s obviously pretty bad for the Stars. The shot count was 15-4 in favor of the Avalanche, and the Stars didn’t even get the shots 2-4 until after the Avalanche had gone up two goals. This is score effects, for anyone keeping track at home.

The Stars have more success than anyone this season in winning games when they’re playing at an early deficit. However, come-from-behind wins aren’t a sustainable story for success, and it’d be nice to see the Stars at least get into the game in the first period.

The first goal scored by the Avalanche was credited to Nikita Zadorov, but it was a lucky bounce into the goal off of Miro Heiskanen, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was actually meant to be a centering pass.

At the time of the goal, almost halfway through the first period, the Stars had one shot on goal to the Avalanche’s 11.

In addition to not getting shots on goal, the Stars’ defensive game in the first was messy. They clumped around the puck instead of spreading out over the zone, which was perfectly illustrated in the lead-up to Gabriel Landeskog’s goal.

They’re simply out of sync in defensive coverage in the early going of the night. Thankfully, there’s still two periods in which to right the ship.

Second Period

The second period was better than the first by a mile, and not only because the Stars equaled the Avalanche in goals (although one was taken back) but also because the Stars actually showed up for the beginning of the period.

John Klingberg drew an early foul and a surprise substitution of Blake Comeau appeared on the power play in the absence of Radek Faksa, who is out tonight after a collision with Alexander Radulov in practice.

Radulov made up for this absence by scoring on the power play when one of the Avalanche found himself without a stick. This goal was challenged for offsides by Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar and sadly, he won this challenge and the goal was taken away.

The problem is the trailing leg. The trailing leg needs to be completely on the ice in the neutral zone when the puck crosses into the offensive zone. Benn lifts his trailing skate here before the puck fully crosses and is therefore offsides. The other issue at play was the time between the zone entry and the goal. There were 18 seconds between this entry and Radulov’s goal. This zone entry was meaningless in terms of the goal, except that the Stars carried the puck in instead of dumping it. At some point time has to clear on an offsides call, one would think.

Klingberg drew a second penalty for a second try at scoring on the power play and keeping the six-game power play goal streak alive, and Denis Gurianov proved equal to the challenge.

Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov love playing together and they should for a very long time, preferably in victory green.

Heading into the third, it’s been nine periods since the Stars scored a 5-on-5 goal, which is somewhat troubling. Roman Polak was called for tripping to finish out the period. Shots on goal still look uneven but were 13-12 Avalanche in the second period.

Third Period

Erik Johnson was called for a delay-of-game penalty, a resulting in a power play that lasted four seconds as Jamie Benn was called for interference on the opening face-off. The resulting 4-on-4 hockey was the most excitement the arena had really seen since the start of the game, with three close chances for the Avalanche. The only reason it wasn’t 3-1 during 4-on-4 was Ben Bishop.

Matt Calvert tried to fight Benn after the interference call (Benn thought Calvert’s reaction was diving), but Benn wasn’t having it at first, until he absolutely did.

Looks like no one told Calvert not to poke the bear.

Seriously, fighting seems to be on its way out, but the pageantry is, at times, very amusing.

The early part of the third period had a lot of momentum and pressure swinging in favor of the Avalanche, especially during that period of 4-on-4 hockey. But play slowly swung in favor of the Stars, culminating in a beautiful backhand goal from Jason Dickinson to tie the game at 2-2.

Andrew Cogliano, on a line with Comeau and Dickinson, tried to put a shot on net but was turned aside. He sent a centering pass to Dickinson instead who shot on goal and then picked up his own rebound to shoot again and score while falling to the ice.

Though it had looked sketchy for the Stars the whole way through, three periods was not enough for this game, and they went to overtime.

Overtime

Well, it lasted almost two minutes and in that timeframe the Avalanche were not able to get a single shot on goal. Esa Lindell finished the Stars’ sweep of the Avalanche with a quick wrister while Joe Pavelski served as a screen.

This was a game in which the Stars were outplayed by the opponent for the overwhelming majority. They allowed themselves to get into a hole that they then had to claw their way out of for most of the game. They’re the best this season at winning after trailing, but not trailing at all is the safer way to go about winning hockey games, and it would be nice to see the Stars try that approach once in a while.

And, with Dickinson’s goal, they’ve scored 5-on-5 again, so that’s comforting. It’s also hard to overstate how good their goaltending has been while they win in all of these wonky ways. The final shot count was 43-30 in favor of the Avalanche. Only a few really big stops from Bishop, especially during that 4-on-4 play, kept the Stars within one.

They’ll be back in Dallas on Thursday for a tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop will be at 7:30 p.m. CT.