The Western Conference leading Colorado Avalanche were welcomed into the American Airlines Center for a Super Bowl Sunday matinee, as the Dallas Stars looked to extend their post all-star break win streak to three games. The big divisional tilt would provide a measuring stick for the Stars, with Colorado coming in winners of nine of their last ten games. The only loss for the Avs came in overtime, giving them a near spotless record as of late.
Dallas, to their credit, had gone an impressive 7-3-0 over their last ten games. Two of those victories came this week against the third place Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. The Stars have won those games with a total of eight goals scored, while allowing six. A big, but expected development came before the game when the Stars announced defenseman John Klingberg would be ruled out with an upper-body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Thomas Harley.
A popular theme for the evening was highlighted off of the drop of the puck, with the potential match-up of two high powered top lines. The Stars top trio and the Nate MacKinnon line would be a show of which unit would assert themselves over the outcome of the game, and as the first period rolled into the fifth minute neither unit cashed in. This was partly to do with a lack of overall speed in the contest, with both teams looking to establish a rhythm. However, the Avalanche would break open the scoring when the Avs top line was able to cycle the Stars. Colorado forced a turnover on the wall, which was then rotated back up the point. The point shot by MacKinnon was deflected in front by Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog and past Braden Holtby for an early 1-0 lead.
Following the Colorado goal the Stars Roope Hintz nearly tied the game on a partial breakaway. His shot attempt was thwarted by the pad of Darcy Kuemper, but gave the AAC crowd something to roar about for the first time in the hockey game. A problematic theme early in the game was the Stars inability to establish any extended zone-time in the Avalanche end of the ice. The Stars lack of attack time resulted in a 7-3 shot disadvantage early in the game.
Colorado would really start to take it to Dallas offensively in the later stages of the period. Led by Cale Makar the Avalanche expertly moved the puck through the Stars defensive structure. Their work would result in a pretty goal scored by Nazem Kadri, who was on the receiving end of a slick walk down the wall and feed from Makar. The goal and quick 2-0 lead for the Avs cemented the reality that the Stars were being noticeably outplayed by the top team in the conference.
Dallas 5 Colorado 13
Dallas 0 Colorado 2
In the second frames opening minute the Stars looked like a team with more urgency in their game. Their best chance in the early stretch came when Hintz took the puck wide with speed, cut towards the net and tired to tuck the puck past Kuemper. Ultimately, the Colorado goaltender stood his ground, denying the chance. However, the foray by Hintz showed an aggressiveness on offense that was missing from the Stars game in the opening period.
With the game approaching the five minute mark the game would finally see its first penalty when Landeskog took a tripping minor. The penalty gave the Stars their first power-play of the game and first chance at a sustained offensive attack at the Colorado net. Unfortunately for the Stars their attack was stifled by the Colorado penalty kill without a high danger chance on net. Fortunately for the Stars the Avalanche would allow them a chance at redemption when Makar took a tripping penalty as well. The Stars nearly found themselves down 3-0 when Tyson Jost split the Stars defense shorthanded and rang a shot off of the crossbar. The Jost chance would be the most dangerous sequence on the Stars second power-play with Dallas unable to generate anything towards Kuemper. The second straight penalty kill would drop Dallas to 0-2 on the afternoon.
The game would settle into uneventful affair for the majority of the second period. That would begin to change when both teams took penalties with around five minutes left in the frame. The first penalty, on Colorado’s MacKinnon for high sticking, gave the Stars their third unsuccessful power-play of the night. With just an eyelash over thirty seconds remaining on the advantage the Stars took their first penalty of the game when Jamie Benn was called for hooking. Dallas would be able to kill the penalty, narrowly surviving a sequence where they could not clear their zone.
Overall the second period for the Stars was much better than the product they rolled out in the first period. They were more able to deal with the Avalanche speed and didn’t allow the puck into the danger areas of the rink. The offensive attack was more complete but without any tangible result on the scoreboard.
Dallas 19 Colorado 20
Dallas 0 Colorado 2
As the third period started the Avalanche would hardly allow the Stars to catch their breath anywhere on the ice. The first three minutes were largely spent in the Dallas end of the ice, with the Stars spending mere seconds chasing the puck around in the Avalanche zone. At the five minute mark of the period it was abundantly clear that Colorado wasn’t content with their 2-0 lead and would be attempting to dictate the remainder of the contest.
At the middle part of the frame the Stars were starting to handle the pressure of that the Avalanche applied. However, the visitors were still spending far too much time in the Dallas end. To their credit, Colorado’s defense was suffocating, allowing the Stars absolutely no room to navigate the puck into the guts of the rink. Colorado’s relentless pressure would eventually pay off when Nicolas Aube-Kubel stole the puck off of the wall, stepped inside and wired a wrist shot past Holtby.
With over three minutes left the Stars pulled Holtby for the extra attacker as they tried to generate some kind of offense. Dallas had only generated four shots-on-goal by this time in the period and would fail to make an attempt at the net. Colorado would ice the game with their fourth of the night when Miro Heiskanen was allegedly tripped by MacKinnon in the corner. The resulting turnover allowed Landeskog to deposit his second goal of the afternoon into the empty net.
Dallas 0 Colorado 4
Dallas 23 Colorado 29
- Dallas would go 0-3 on the man advantage tonight without John Klingberg in the lineup. Asked how that effected the team Head Coach Rick Bowness mentioned that it shouldn’t have that much of an impact. He noted the Stars have players who can step in those situations and the special teams mirrored the struggles the team had at even strength.
- Cale Makar is a spectacular hockey player. That’s it.
- A common theme in the post game presser was that the Stars felt they gave the Avalanche too much respect in the first period. These two teams play again Tuesday night in Denver and Michael Raffl mentioned that the Stars need to take it to the Avalanche physically.