While the Colorado Avalanche have muddled through some early season injuries, the Dallas Stars came out hot to begin the year, and Monday night’s contest pitted the defending Stanley Cup Champions against the only team above them in the standings. It was as physical and tightly contested as expected, as the most anticipated regular season contest to date lived up to expectations and felt very much like a playoff game.
The Stars came out hot and drove play early. Colorado weathered the storm, killed off a dangerous Dallas power play, then Mikko Rantanen drew a hook from Joel Kiviranta and sent the Avs to the man advantage. If you have been paying attention to the Avalanche this season you probably know what happens next.
This was Cale Makar’s 200th career point, reaching this mark faster than any other defenseman in NHL history.
THAT WAS FAST— NHL (@NHL) November 22, 2022
Cale Makar (@Cmakar8) becomes the fastest defenseman in NHL history to reach 200 career points and is the first to do so in under 200 games!
NHL Fast 5 presented by @FastenalCompany. pic.twitter.com/O8OBgEsOcp
Not long afterwards, Martin Kaut went hard into the boards and he missed the rest of the first and about half of the second period before returning.
The first five minutes were packed with action. Dallas opened with a strong push just like the first, but it was the Avs who had the first big chance of the period on a 4-on-3 as Mikko Rantanen dropped a pass to Makar near the right face-off circle that he just over-skated. Soon after, Josh Manson laid a big clean hit on Mason Marchment that Jamie Benn took offense to, and subsequently challenged him to a fight. After a few swings and misses, Manson popped Benn in the face and won this round 10-9.
"Down goes Benn!" is a phrase not heard very often pic.twitter.com/qHU2N6Or6o— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 22, 2022
A minute later, Dallas got on the scoreboard with a bizarre goal. Breakout Dallas Star Jason Robertson was cross-checked from behind by Andreas Englund, and as Robertson flew into the goal he somehow found a way to jam it in. After lengthy review it was determined this was a good goal because the cross-check dislodged the net.
Both teams caught their breath a bit after this sequence, and play settled down. Colorado soon made it to the power play again, where they missed another top notch scoring chance as J.T. Compher fed Alex Newhook on the doorstep but the puck was fluttering and Newhook couldn’t get his stick on it.
Both teams traded some back and forth play for the rest of the period, and Alexandar Georgiev made a big blocker save late to send it to the third tied at one.
A little over two minutes in, Alex Newhook opened the scoring with a very nice team goal. Martin Kaut won’t get an assist on it but cycling this up top to Englund kicked this whole scramble into motion. Evan Rodrigues displayed great patience to wait out Oettinger and Newhook’s tenacity in front of the net earned him this goal.
Colorado had a strong power play midway through the third that almost put the game out of reach, and they maintained the momentum coming out out of it through the next few minutes. It looked like they were going to close it out with a great defensive effort, particularly on key plays by Devon Toews and Martin Kaut in the final minute, but the Avs lost track of their defensive coverage and gave Jason Robertson just enough room to tie it up with 25 seconds left.
J.T. Compher won the opening face-off and thus began the Nathan MacKinnon show. After a minute of poking and prodding the Dallas defense, he nearly ended it rushing to the net. Evan Rodrigues won the next face-off and the Avs had possession for another 40 seconds as you could feel the Dallas crowd’s restlessness emanating through the screen. The Stars finally got the puck on the next draw, but they ended their possession by giving it back to MacKinnon who decided he hadn’t annoyed the Dallas crowd enough, and skated around for a good 30 seconds before drawing a penalty. Thanks to some more Jake Oettinger heroics, the Avs couldn’t cash in and the game went to a shootout.
Dallas opened the shootout with Tyler Seguin who made one too many moves and lost the puck. Then Oettinger and MacKinnon faced off in this game’s battle of the titans and Oettinger won this round with a nice glove save. Joe Pavelski then tried to race Georgiev to the far post, but his shot was deflected over the bar by the Avalanche netminder. Next up was Mikko Rantanen who broke the scoreless tie with some saucy hands and a wicked wrister.
The game then rested on Jason Robertson’s stick, and he tried and failed to beat Georgiev high glove side, as Georgiev may have caught a piece of the puck before it sailed over the crossbar.
Nathan MacKinnon was absolutely electric tonight. He probably had double the amount of possession Dallas did in overtime. He was determined to not let the Avs lose this game, and with less stellar goaltending this would have been a much more comfortable win for Colorado given how many chances their pressure created (expected goals for tonight were 2.23 for the Avs and 1.03 for the Stars). Jake Oettinger is a serious problem for the Western Conference and he alone makes Dallas a contender.
This was a measuring-stick game for the Stars, as they had to put on a good showing in their first meeting with the division’s resident big bad wolf. Jason Robertson is the real deal (as Wes Lawrence of Defending Big D told us on the Mile High Hockey Lab podcast this week), and the Stars will undoubtedly be confident going into the next game. This was a hard-nosed defensive battle where both teams had strong stretches of play that could have decided the outcome with a little more puck luck. Corsi at 5-on-5 was basically even for the entire game, with the Avs slightly edging out the Stars 53% to 47%. Saturday night’s rematch in Denver should be another intense contest.
Colorado returns home to host the struggling Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. MT.