Stars use dominant start in Game 4 win to push shorthanded Avalanche to brink of elimination

For about 16 minutes Monday night, the shorthanded Colorado Avalanche, buoyed by a sensational start from goalie Alexandar Georgiev and a full-throated Ball Arena crowd, looked capable of pulling off the improbable.

Alas, reality set in soon after that.


The Dallas Stars took full advantage of an Avalanche team missing both Valeri Nichushkin and Devon Toews, and cruised to a dominant 5-1 victory in Game 4 to take full control of this second-round series and put this once-promising Colorado hockey season on the brink.

Dallas will have the first of three chances to knock Colorado out of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night in Game 5 at American Airlines Center.

Good news about the Avalanche roster, in the form of Jonathan Drouin making his Colorado postseason debut, was quickly washed away about an hour before the game. The NHL and NHLPA announced that Nichushkin has been placed in Stage 3 of the NHL-NHLPA Player Assistance Program, which carries a minimum six-month suspension without pay. Georgiev was spectacular early, but the Stars poured on the offensive pressure in a way they have not been able to against the Avalanche in the previous three games of this series.

Colorado had a power play late in the first period, and that was the beginning of the Avs’ undoing — on the ice at least.

Cale Makar turned the puck over in his own zone, and then Sam Steel and Wyatt Johnston combined for three shots in quick succession. Georgiev got the first two, but not Johnston’s rebound at 15:37.

Johnston scored again 5:46 into the second period to give Dallas a 2-0 lead. At that point, the Stars had a 22-4 advantage in shots on goal. When the Avs did find some time in the offensive zone, the guys in white were able to clog shooting lanes and keep the puck away from goalie Jake Oettinger.

Miro Heiskanen’s shot from the right point pinballed its way into the net behind Georgiev to give the Stars a 3-0 lead just past the halfway point in the second. The Avalanche did make a push after that. Casey Mittelstadt scored his second goal of the postseason to get Colorado on the board 71 seconds later.

When Evgenii Dadonov punched home a rebound with 10:33 remaining in the third to restore Dallas’ three-goal lead, some of those fans who had tried to will their team to an improbable victory headed for the exits.

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