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MHH Post-Game: Avalanche grind out 4-2 win over Dallas

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The Avs were able to shut down a high-powered Stars offense thanks to Jonathan Bernier’s work in the net.

NHL: Preseason-Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado earned their third win of the preseason campaign with a 4-2 win over the Stars tonight in Dallas. Both teams started strong lineups as we inch closer to regular season hockey, and this game was more of a grind-it-out affair than the Avs’ first clash with Dallas four nights ago.

Recap

The Avs again came out firing, again scoring on their first shot of the game against the Stars. Nathan MacKinnon handcuffed Ben Bishop on an off-speed wrister from a Mikko Rantanen drop pass for his fourth goal of the preseason.

Dallas answered later in the period with a strange Brett Ritchie goal off a tipped Devin Shore shot that slipped behind Bernier playing an aggressive angle. The puck slid through the crease and was banged home by Ritchie to tie the game.

The first period featured a ton of Avalanche speed and energy early, with the Stars struggling to slow the pace of the game. Dallas was able to settle in during the second half of the period and out-chanced the Avs by the time the horn sounded.

The second period started uglier than the first, with both teams struggling to maintain any neutral zone control. Matt Nieto found the net five minutes into the second with a nice shot against the grain, beating Bishop on the short post to make it 2-1. The play was made possible by a nice Gabriel Bourque pokecheck to spring an odd-man rush.

The Avs pressured the offensive zone late in the period after a Yakupov shot hit the post. Colorado maintained possession, feeding the puck back to the point for a Nikita Zadorov shot that found its way through traffic, landing on Alexander Kerfoot’s stick. His initial attempt was stopped by Ben Bishop, but Kerfoot followed up his own rebound to bang home his second preseason goal.

The standout of the period was easily Jonathan Bernier, who was excellent under immense Dallas pressure all throughout the middle frame. The Stars outshot Colorado 17-9 in the period and looked like the stronger team, despite the Avs’ two goals.

The Avalanche gave the third period to Semyon Varlamov, and Dallas struck early in the third to make it a one-goal game after some patient passing by the Stars’ defensemen to set up a Julius Honka wrist shot.

Varly recovered well from the early goal, though, and looked strong on the Avs’ two penalty kills in the third, stopping second-chance efforts multiple times. Colorado was then able to close the game out with an empty net goal from Mikko Rantanen to finish off the 4-2 victory.

Final Thoughts

  • As we’ve seen all preseason, the refs are not allowing any stick contact to go unpunished. Tonight’s game saw fewer penalties than the first Dallas clash, but Reid Petryk was called for slashing on a routine stick blade to the hands of Devin Shore during a neutral zone backcheck. What was once a pretty common occurrence in the league is probably on its way out until the second week of the season when the refs give up calling it every night.
  • Bernier looked sounded really good tonight. Big saves, but even bigger was his rebound control. Dallas had almost no second chances during Bernier’s two periods of work.
  • Colorado’s top two lines had a great game. MacKinnon and Rantanen both found the net, Jost added an assist, and the Kerfoot-Duchene-Yakupov line put in good shifts in an otherwise somewhat forgettable second and third period.
  • Speaking of Kerfoot, he’s making a strong claim for that second line left wing spot. If Duchene ends up starting the season in Denver, I’d imagine that line is pretty solidified.
  • Not a ton to report on the defensive side of the ice. Nikita Zadorov had a couple of good open ice hits and was sound defensively. Erik Johnson was partnered with Anton Lindholm through most of the game, and Lindholm was given the chance to help close the game out with Dallas’ goalie pulled following a timeout. Interesting choice by Jared Bednar to give the young defenseman a shot in a pressure situation.
  • Tyson Barrie was his usual -2 on the +/- tonight, which led to a funny moment from Altitude’s Mark Bertagnolli. Apparently in the locker room a couple of days ago, Mikko Rantanen quipped that the thing that Winnipeg winters and Tyson Barrie had in common was that they were both -20. I laughed. Then I was sad.
  • The Avalanche had a lot of struggles exiting the zone once the Stars shifted to a more aggressive forecheck, so that’s a problem that’s carried over from last season.
  • The Avs were outshot for the first time all preseason tonight, 36-24. They did out-block the Stars 22-9, though, and won the takeaway battle 14-6.
  • Last big takeaway from tonight: The Avs kept the Benn-Seguin-Radulov line off the score sheet. Both Benn and Radulov finished the night as a -3.

Upcoming

Colorado wraps up the preseason campaign Thursday night in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights. Puck drops at 8:00.