Game 68 is rarely a true must win but this contest between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars would have major playoff implications. Win and the Avalanche are truly back in the thick of the hunt, lose and it would be very difficult for the Avalanche to catch the Stars in the standings or even grab a wild card position entirely. Unfortunately, at the end of the night, the Avalanche had zero goals, while the Stars put up four.
For the majority of the first period the Avalanche controlled play and had the shot advantage 13-11, however the Stars held the tally on the scoreboard. After trading fruitless power plays, it was the Stars who would gather the momentum and convert at 16:14 when Alexander Radulov took advantage of some scrambled play in the defensive zone and tipped a pass from Jamie Benn past goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
In the second period old sloppy habits started to creep up as Dallas dialed up the physicality. Pressure finally built up and Radulov added another goal to the Stars’ lead at 8:55. Following a neutral zone turnover, Tyler Seguin sent a feed to Radulov for laser of a shot. The Avalanche had another futile power play but started taking the game back by the end of the period without any reward on the scoreboard.
Things went as predicted in the third period as the Stars added another goal for insurance from Benn at 5:19 off of some very lackluster defensive zone coverage. There wasn’t much of a push back from the Avalanche at that point as they were resigned to defeat.
A strange moment occurred when Varlamov lost his skate blade and had to be ushered off the ice to fix it. Philipp Grubauer had to play in net for five minutes while the equipment issue was sorted out.
Coach Jared Bednar pulled Varlamov with a little under five minutes left to generate some offense, but as expected, the Avalanche would surrender an empty net goal before they got much generated at their end of the ice. It was Radulov, scoring his first career hat trick with just less than three minutes remaining. It was all said and done at that point.
- Compete level wasn’t an issue in this one at least in the first period but the Avalanche had few dangerous chances and visibly looked let down and played with a lack of confidence with each subsequent goal against. The power play again worked to take momentum away rather than provide it as the team passed up multiple chances to shoot from the slot and did little with the man advantage. Special teams will quietly be a big reason for the downfall of this team should they fail to make the playoffs.
- Gabe Landeskog collided with goaltender Ben Bishop in the third period and left the game. Bednar did not have an update, saying Landeskog needed further evaluation on what looked like a possible shoulder or arm injury. Missing Landeskog on top of already down Nikita Zadorov would be a big blow to the team. The Avalanche have had very good injury luck up to this point, especially with their top players but the team construction will be tested without a big part of the roster available. If the solution is to just insert Gabriel Bourque or Sheldon Dries back into the lineup then predictable disappointing results likely will follow.
- With the Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes also winning this evening that puts the Avalanche four points out of a wild card spot and one point behind Arizona. The playoff race is far from over but a significant winning streak is probably what it will take to grab a spot.
The Avalanche return home for a weekend matinee against the visiting Buffalo Sabres at 1:00 pm MT on Saturday.