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Colorado Avalanche send a message, force game 6 with 6-3 win over Stars

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The Avalanche score five goals in the first period in a roller coaster contest. Beat the Dallas Stars 6-3.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

FIRST PERIOD

Game five in Edmonton started with a slew of lineup surprises for both the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars.

For the Stars, their shock came in the form of goaltender Ben Bishop, who made his first start in over four months. For the Avalanche lineup, there were some expected changes made due to injuries — including an active lineup that featured two former Colorado Eagles in Logan O’Connor and Connor Timmins — but the big shock was also in in net, as Michael Hutchinson was given his first career playoff start in net due to an ‘unfit to play’ status for Pavel Francouz.

Avs head coach Jared Bednar also switched up line combinations. Andre Burakovsky and Tyson Jost split time on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

As nerve-wracking as it was to have a pairing of Hutchinson and AHL-signee Hunter Miska as the goaltending duo, though, the Avalanche came out of the gate hot and had one of the most dominant playoff periods in franchise history. It all started with a goal from Pierre Edouard Bellemare on a slick feed from Logan O’Connor, which put the Avalanche up 1-0 almost immediately.

Andre Burakovsky then scored his fifth goal of the playoffs off a rebound around seven minutes later, giving the Avalanche a two-goal lead.

Nathan MacKinnon followed that up by scoring forty-one seconds later on a feed from J.T. Compher, putting the Avalanche up three goals. Ben Bishop was looking like a goalie that hadn’t played since last August.

The fourth Avalanche goal of the first period saw Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop leave the ice, as Nazem Kadri netted a rebound off what most would consider a routine save.

Avalanche Defender Conor Timmins scored his first playoff point assisting Samuel Girard, who beat Dallas’ new netminder, Anton Khudobin, on his first save attempt. It was just fifteen minutes into the first frame — a point in the last game in which the Avalanche had yet to even record a shot on goal — and it was already 5-0 in their favor.

Dallas was assessed two penalties to end the first period, giving Colorado a two man advantage to head into period number two. They officially finished the period with five goals, while holding the Dallas Stars to just four shots on goal; add in that they scored four goals in two minutes and thirty six seconds, and it was a complete departure from their game earlier in the week.

SECOND PERIOD

The Colorado Avalanche were unable to cash in on the two-man advantage, and followed it with a high sticking penalty of their own. Conor Timmins caught former Avalanche forward Blake Comeau. Fortunately, the Avalanche were able to get the kill, only allowing one shot on goal during the penalty.

Joe Pavelski got the Dallas Stars on the board not long after, beating Michael Hutchinson through the five hole. Pavelski scored the fifty-sixth playoff goal of his career and his eighth of these playoffs.

Anton Khudobin then tripped Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog in front of the net, and the Avalanche went on the power play. Khudobin made a point-blank save on Mikko Rantanen and came up with several big saves and Dallas killed off another penalty.

The game began to get a little more chippy when both Nazem Kadri and Joe Pavelski went off. Kadri got the additional unsportsmanlike for responding to a slash with a slash. The additional minor gave Dallas a shortened power-play opportunity. Pierre Edouard Bellemare made a great read and got a shorthanded breakaway, but Khudobin made another big save. The Avalanche were able to kill of another penalty as well.

Midway through the period, it seemed like Dallas was trying to get into as many goal-mount scrums as possible to get under Michael Hutchinson’s skin. Hutch showed a lot of poise during that stretch. Dallas’s gamesmanship did draw Sam Girard into an unsportsmanlike penalty as he grabbed Comeau’s shield during a scrum.

Dallas would make Colorado pay for their penalty as Miro Heiskanen scored off the leg of Ryan Graves, beating Hutchinson’s short side. His goal narrowed the Avalanche lead to three goals.

The Avalanche would respond quickly as Andre Burakovsky scored on an unselfish feed from MacKinnon, bringing the score to 6-2. Blake Comeau would go off for cross-checking Sam Girard after the goal.

THIRD PERIOD

Ryan Graves would go off for tripping four minutes into the third period allowing Dallas an opportunity to narrow the gap. The Colorado penalty kill looked solid, blocking shots and getting in the passing lanes. Unfortunately, Conor Timmins sent a puck out of play in his end, giving the Stars a five on three advantage for twenty-four seconds. Tyler Seguin shot a puck off the post, and the Stars looked dangerous but were unable to capitalize on the power-play.

Blake Comeau was assessed a ten-minute misconduct after he cross-checked Nazem Kadri after the whistle. Joe Pavelski went to the showers after giving the ref an earful from the bench. Dallas was frustrated to end this contest, and the third period was essentially a parade to the penalty box.

Jamie Benn would score on a power-play after Ian Cole went off for holding. The Avalanche kill looked tired as the Avs weren’t doing themselves any favors.

Dallas spent the last four minutes with an empty net as they tried to make a comeback but were unable, and the Avalanche force a game 6.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Colorado responded well to a disappointing performance in game four. However, it is worth mentioning that Dallas’ starting goaltender Ben Bishop hadn’t played since August and didn’t look to be on his game. Hopefully, the Avalanche can solve Anton Khudobin, who will undoubtedly get Dallas’s start in game six.
  • If the Avalanche wants to have a realistic chance at mounting a comeback in this second-round series, it will require stout goaltending and disciplined play. Michael Hutchinson was solid in net, and Colorado looked very disciplined to start the contest but unraveled in the second with two unsportsmanlike penalties.
  • Dallas will activate if they can coerce the Avalanche into an emotional response. Best for Colorado to skate away after the whistle. That can be tough when the Stars forwards always pressure the net after the whistle.
  • Jared Bednar seemed to cause some confusion by switching up the line combinations. I especially enjoyed the Landeskog, Nichushkin, and Kadri line. All three of these guys can throw the body and create traffic in front of the net. This should be a solid line if it stays intact, going into game 6.