Avalanche force game seven after pivotal 4-1 win over Dallas


Wednesday night may have been one of the most highly anticipated games for the Colorado Avalanche all season.  After being down 3-1 to the Dallas Stars, the Avs had an opportunity to force a game seven where the winner would advance to the Western Conference finals.  Both the Stars and Avalanche lost in the second round in a game seven last season so there was pressure from both sides to take the next step.

Similar to Game Five, the Avalanche chose to play goaltender Michael Hutchinson who was backed up again by Hunter MiskaConor Timmins drew into the lineup once again but unfortunately Matt Calvert was still held out.  In goal for the Stars was Anton Khudobin, backed up by young Jake Oettinger as Ben Bishop was deemed unfit to play again.

Here’s how the game shook out.

First period

While it took awhile for both teams to loosen up, the story in the first period was faceoff wins and blocked shots.  The Stars won 67% of the draws and had 11 blocked shots in the first 20 minutes of the game.  The first big opportunity for the Avs came when Pierre Edouard-Bellemare took a high stick from Blake Comeau and drew blood so Colorado had four minutes of powerplay time.  Unfortunately, the Stars killed off all four minutes and limited Colorado to just a couple shots on goal.  The Avalanche had another minor penalty after Mikko Rantanen was taken down going to the net, but Dallas killed that penalty off, too.

On the defensive side, goaltender Michael Hutchinson made a huge save on Stars forward Radek Faksa as he was forced to slide from left to right to make sure a rebound didn’t go in.  But it was only a few minutes later when Miro Heiskanen scored on what should’ve been a routine save for Hutchinson.

But the Avs weren’t ready to end the period on that note.  With under a minute to go, Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov took a shot from the point through traffic and it found its way into the net past Anton Khudobin.  With the score tied at one, both teams headed into the locker room with shots also tied at 13 each.

During the intermission, Anson Carter talked about there being fewer scrums after the whistle.  Both teams were trying to be conservative and not commit any dumb penalties that would put their teams shorthanded.

Second Period

It was more of the same in the second period as the Stars still couldn’t stay out of the box, and the Avs still couldn’t score on the powerplay.  Jamie Benn and Corey Perry were called for minor penalties in the period, but Colorado struggled going 0-for-5 for the game.  Eight minutes in, Cale Makar found a rebound in the slot and put it high past Anton Khudobin, giving the Avs a 2-1 lead.  But more bad news would follow.  Conor Timmins would leave the game, leaving Colorado with just five defenseman to finish the game and captain Gabriel Landeskog left at the end of the period with an apparent leg injury.

Third Period

The Avs got to work early in the third period and provided goaltender Michael Hutchinson with some insurance with a goal by Mikko Rantanen.  The assist came from Nathan MacKinnon who extended his playoff point streak to 14 games.  After that goal, Dallas started turning up the heat finishing every check and putting tons of pressure on the puck.  But the Avalanche held on to their lead and got back the captain Gabe Landeskog who returned from the locker room.

With under ten minutes to play, the Avs went to the penalty kill after Stars forward Jason Dickinson received a high stick.  They did a great job blocking shots and making sure the Stars didn’t have any open lanes.  As time dwindled down to three minutes left, Dallas pulled their goalie but that didn’t end well.  Nathan MacKinnon recovered a loose puck and sent it down for the empty net goal, sealing the game for the Avs at 4-1.

What’s next?

Holy cow, that’s all I can say.  It’s been quite the series and will be remembered as an instant classic, but this is far from over.  Friday night, the Avalanche and Stars play each other one last time in a win or go home game to advance to the Western Conference Finals.  The stage is getting bigger each game and although Colorado keeps getting setbacks with injuries, they keep moving forward.  Hold onto your hats folks, we’ve got a game seven coming our way!

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