Despite good goals from Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen in the first and second periods, the Colorado Avalanche fell 5–2 to the Dallas Stars in Game Two of their seven-game series. Going into the game, both the fans and Avs head coach Jared Bednar were looking for more aggressive puck play from their team than they had seen in Game One against the Stars, which the Avalanche lost 3–2. Having won the previous series and easily beaten the Arizona Coyotes 7–1 in Games Four and Five, both Games One and Two against the Stars saw the Avalanche fail to increase their intensity when facing a much better team.
Colorado did come out strong initially, scoring two early goals and dominating early gameplay, but they suffered multiple penalties in the second period which the Stars capitalized on, resulting in four unanswered goals before the end of the second. And, despite a valiant effort by backup goaltender Pavel Francouz, the Avalanche now look to play from behind in their race for the Stanley Cup.
Starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer and defenseman Erik Johnson did not play and, per Bednar, are out indefinitely. In place of Johnson, the Avalanche pulled Eagles defenseman Kevin Connauton into their lineup, who worked hard but could not quite fill the role of Samuel Girard’s defensive partner. Forward Matt Calvert was a scratch for both Game One and Two against the Stars and continues to be day-to-day.
Colorado began the game by putting pucks on net at every single chance they were given, and the scoreboard reflected their intensity. Dallas committed their first of nine penalties at just 5:54 into the period, and the Avs’ top line did not disappoint. Less than 30 seconds into the power play, MacKinnon slapped a beautiful saucer pass from Rantanen into the back of the net. The goal tied MacKinnon with Joe Sakic and Marian Stastny for the longest playoff point streak in franchise history.
Nathan MacKinnon wires home Mikko Rantanen's perfect saucer pass pic.twitter.com/w65AgPQ76Q
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 25, 2020
The Avalanche continued to put pucks on net in the period, with good shot attempts by Ian Cole and exceptional saves by Francouz. A double penalty for roughing on Gabriel Landeskog and Mattias Janmark generated no goals, but the Avs ultimately outshot the Stars 20–6 in the period. They put bodies in front of Stars goalie Anton Khudobin, dominated the crease and killed all three of Dallas’ first-period penalties.
The quick and aggressive Colorado team from the first period carried over into the first half of the second. After a slashing call on Joe Pavelski against MacKinnon, MacKinnon slipped a pass to Rantanen from behind the net, who shot it high above Khudobin’s right shoulder, and the Avs scored their second power-play goal of the game for a 2–0 lead.
Mikko and Nate on the power play.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) August 25, 2020
After the goal, however, the Avalanche’s luck seemed to roll only downhill. The Stars attempted to dislodge a puck that Francouz had already covered, and a fight broke out that resulted only in a slashing penalty on Girard against Corey Perry. Then, at 9:43 into the second period, Cole committed an interference penalty against the Stars, and Pavelski and Radek Faksa scored two goals on the ensuing power play to level the score at 2–2.
The penalties from both teams did not stop there, but Colorado could not capitalize on any of their power plays and the game began to look chippy. At 15:34 into the second period, Dallas deflected a shot into the net over Francouz, putting the Stars up 3–2. With less than three minutes left in the second, Nazem Kadri—who has excelled in the playoffs for the Avalanche this season—left the ice after blocking a shot. He returned to the bench at the start of the third period, ruling out a serious injury. The Stars scored again shortly after, and although the goal was challenged by the Avalanche’s coaching staff, the referee review resulted in a good Dallas goal. The Stars ended the period with a 4–2 lead and having closed the shots-on-goal gap significantly.
The call on the ice was goal… it's under review now pic.twitter.com/L0hOnNVRwe
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) August 25, 2020
Despite hopes that the Avalanche would come out swinging in the third period, and despite two Dallas penalties that led to good Avalanche power play opportunities, Colorado continued to choose the extra pass over available shot attempts. The team looked visibly frustrated at times, and despite bursts of physicality and defensive hustle, they could not close Dallas’s goal lead and finished the game down 5–2 after an empty-net goal by Jamie Oleksiak. Although a couple of Stars goals seemed reliant on luck and bad puck bounces, the Avalanche defense ultimately could not immobilize the Dallas offense, and missed shot opportunities resulted in an Avalanche loss.
With the Stars up 2–0 in the series, Dallas and Colorado face off for Game Three on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. MDT. Colorado will be playing from behind and looking to close the two-game deficit. Defenseman Erik Johnson will likely miss Game Three as well, and fans should expect Colorado to step up their defensive play in his absence. On stat watch is Nathan MacKinnon, who has scored at least a point in all 10 games the Avalanche have played this postseason and continues to climb the record boards.