Stars Can’t Close Out Series, Avalanche Win 4-1

Game 7 happens Friday for all the marbles.

Make that 0-for-2.

With their second chance to close out the Colorado Avalanche and move on to the second round of the 2020 NHL playoffs, the Dallas Stars were unable to capitalize, dropping a 4-1 loss.

Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen each had a goal and an assist for Colorado, while Cale Makar and Nikita Zadorov also scored. Third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson, making his second appearance in a row in relief of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz, made 27 stops. Aside from one or two nice stops, he wasn’t overly tested.

Miro Heiskanen had the only Dallas goal. It was the first one in the contest, a weak one that might have deflated a weaker team, but Colorado answered minutes later and then never looked back. They advanced their lead to 2-1 in the second and then wrapped things up with a two-goal bow in the third.

The biggest bright spots for Dallas were Heiskanen and their penalty kill, which went a perfect 5-for-5. Beyond that, it was far from the game that the team wanted to have. The Avalanche attacked better, defender better, and got the result they deserved in this one.

Game 7, do or die, comes Friday night.

First Period

Dallas started the game exactly how they needed to by looking engaged and applying pressure on the Avalanche. They were the better team in the first five minutes, controlling possession and getting a few good looks on Hutchinson.

The ice began slanting in Colorado’s direction shortly after, however, as Blake Comeau was called for a four-minute double minor. The Stars killed it off, only for Jamie Oleksiak to get whistled shortly after to prevent a breakaway scoring chance.

Building off of the yeoman work of the penalty-killers, the Stars opened the scoring at 17:35 when Heiskanen’s wrist shot cleanly handcuffed Hutchinson. The goal extended the Finnish defender’s point-scoring streak to seven games. The goal also came shortly after Hutchinson absolutely robbed Radek Faksa with the right pad.

The lead was short-lived, as Colorado answered 1:53 later. Zadorov’s point shot snuck through Khudobin after Oleksiak pushed a Colorado forward into his own goaltender.

Shots: Dallas 13, Colorado 13
Score: Dallas 1, Colorado 1

Second Period

Dallas killed off their fourth straight penalty early in the second, and immediately afterwards began applying some furious pressure on Colorado. But it was all for naught, as they couldn’t pierce the defensive armor.

Colorado took a 2-1 lead almost midway through the frame, when Makar finished a strong cycle for his team by jumping behind the Stars defender and going top-shelf on Khudobin.

The Stars came close to making it 2-2 late when Mattias Janmark went in on a short-handed rush and Hutchinson lost sight of the puck, but Joe Pavelski couldn’t tuck the loose rebound behind the netminder.

Shots: Dallas 19, Colorado 20
Score: Dallas 1, Colorado 2

Third Period

It was another period that started strongly for Dallas, with some cycle pressure and a couple of decent looks, but it wasn’t enough.

Three minutes into the frame the Stars lost a bouncing puck and the deadly Avalanche duo of MacKinnon and Rantanen capitalized in the blink of an eye, with the former sending a picturesque saucer pass to the latter to make it 3-1.

There wasn’t much to write home about after that, as the Stars failed to mount a significant charge in retaliation before MacKinnon deposited an empty-netter to seal the 4-1 victory.

That’s now two wins in a row for the Avalanche, who were buzzing tonight and seem to have the momentum on their side in this series. It will be the Stars who have the uphill battle in the all-important deciding Game 7 on Friday.

Final Shots: Dallas 28, Colorado 24
Final Score: Dallas 1, Colorado 4

Game 7 will be on Friday, September 4. Start time has yet to be determined.