The Dallas Stars certainly can’t take too much comfort in those four victories over Colorado in the regular season or their unprecedented seven-goal surge to advance in these unusual playoffs.
Life has certainly been different in the bubble in Edmonton, Alberta, where the Avalanche and Stars open the second round with Game 1 of their best-of-seven series Saturday night.
Colorado, after a 4-0 shutout of the Stars during round-robin play, had consecutive 7-1 wins over Arizona to wrap up that first-round series in five games.
Dallas gave up three goals before taking a shot but rallied to become the first team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal deficit and win a playoff game by four goals — 7-3 win over Calgary in Game 6 on Thursday night.
“People don’t realize how hard it is, this bubble,” Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness said. “It’s great that we’re playing, and the league is back, but it’s tough.”
The Stars had a couple of wild, 5-4 wins against Calgary. They won Game 2 on goal with 40 seconds left, and in overtime in Game 4 after Joe Pavelski’s tying goal with 11.9 seconds left in regulation notched the first hat trick in Dallas postseason history — a feat matched by rookie Denis Gurianov in the Game 6 clincher.
“They’re a veteran team. Some really good defensemen who log a lot of minutes and do a lot of heavy lifting for them, and some guys up front that can put the puck in the net,” Avs defenseman Erik Johnson said. “So it’s going to be, I think, probably a heavier series, probably some more physicality, than what we had in the last one.”
Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon’s 13 points (four goals, nine assists) were the most in the NHL this postseason going into Friday night’s games. Nazem Kadri has 11 points (six goals, five assists) after consecutive two-goal games, while Hart Trophy finalist MacKinnon has points in every game this postseason. Miro Heiskanen, the 21-year-old defenseman for the Stars, has 12 points (three goals, nine assists). His power play goal in the first period of Game 6 finally got Dallas on the board and on the road to its comeback.
The Avalanche went 1 for 18 on the power play in the four regular season games against Dallas, which won the last one in overtime and also had a shootout victory. In its round-robin win Aug. 5, three of Colorado’s four goals came with a man advantage.
BETWEEN THE POSTS
After starting all 13 postseason games for the Stars last season, goalie Ben Bishop played only Game 2 against Calgary after appearing in only one of the three round-robin games. Anton Khudobin has a 2.49 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage this postseason after never starting a playoff game before this year. He stopped the last 34 shots he faced against the Flames after surrendering three goals in seven shots to open Game 6.
“Regroup and just keep going. Luckily, it went that way,” Khudobin said. “After the first (playoff series) win … trust me, it feels good. It’s under my belt. But at the same time, I know what’s ahead of us.”
Philipp Grubauer was in net for all four Colorado victories over Arizona, stopping 81 of 85 shots (.953 save percentage). Pavel Francouz, who had 27 saves in the round-robin shutout against Dallas, stopped 19 of 21 shots in Game 3 when Arizona also had two empty-netters in a 4-2 win.
Pavelski, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent last summer after 12 playoff appearances the past 13 seasons with San Jose, was part of another big comeback clincher in his first playoff series with the Stars. The Sharks trailed 3-0 midway through the third period in Game 7 of the opening round in last year’s playoffs when Pavelski, their captain, went down on the ice bleeding after being cross-checked by Vegas center Cody Eakin. The Sharks scored four goals during the five-minute power play on the major penalty, then won 5-4 in overtime.
“If we’re talking about comebacks, I mean, obviously, last year in the Game 7 against Vegas, that’s got to be up there,” Pavelski said clincher over Calgary. “You play enough playoff games, you see a few things, and this one is right there with it.”
LONG TIME AGO
That Stars are in the second round in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998-2001, a stretch when they twice beat Colorado in the Western Conference finals that went the full seven games to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Dallas won the Cup over Buffalo in 1999 and lost to New Jersey the following year. In their other postseason meetings, Colorado beat the Stars in five games in the first round in 2004 and 2006.