Coming into Game 5 of their second-round series the Dallas Stars had a chance to punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals. They will now have that same chance in Game 6 after they were blitzed and blasted by the Colorado Avalanche and lost 6-3.
The game was truly over after the first 20 minutes as Colorado hit Dallas with, well an avalanche of goals. Five to be exact. The Stars have had some wild comebacks and played in some crazy games this postseason, but this just wasn’t their night.
This series has been a goalpalooza of sorts and the two teams have combined for a total of 43 goals in the five games, by far the highest-scoring series in these playoffs. “It’s a series. We’re up 3-2 and that’s all that matters right now,” said Stars’ forward Andrew Cogliano following the game.
13 different Colorado players registered a point in the opening 20 minutes – the first time in NHL playoff history that has ever happened in any first period. Nathan MacKinnon (goal & assist) continued his ridonkulous streak, extending his point streak to 13 straight games (aka every game in these playoffs) – the last player to start a postseason with points in 13 consecutive games was Mark Messier in 1994.
Despite being down 0-5 after the first period, and giving the Avalanche a glimmer of hope in the series again, there were some positives in the thrashing for the Stars. Here are our takeaways from Dallas’ Game 5 loss.
1. Rusty Bishop
Goaltender Ben Bishop hadn’t played for the Stars since Aug. 13 (still not used to these dates correlating with hockey games), and once the game started it showed. We’ll never know how the game would have gone if Anton Khudobin would have continued as the starter, but by the time Bishop was pulled and Khudobin entered with six-plus minutes left in the first period the damage was done.
Bishop saw 19 shots and let four of them slip past him. All four goals came in a span of 9:06. He looked a tad slow and against the desperate Avalanche – who were fighting for their playoff lives – he was overmatched.
“Our first ten minutes was an absolute joke. Bish will take the blame and put it on himself, but let’s be honest – we were atrocious in the first ten minutes. When Bish is in the net we have full confidence in him and we let him down,” said a brutally honest Cogliano, who led all players in the game with six hits.
“We had an opportunity tonight to close the door (on them), we knew they were going to have a push. Their season was on the line,” said Bishop after the game during his postgame availability. “I’ll take the blame. I have to be better.”
“I was excited to be back. It’s just one of those nights. It’s a long series, and tonight wasn’t our night and you move on,” added the netminder.
Perhaps the same would have happened to Khudobin because the Avs were flying from jump street and both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back. The Stars were overwhelmed as a whole in that first period and outshot 23-5 – as Colorado flipped the script from the previous night.
From the time Khudobin entered the game until the end, Dallas outscored the Avs 3-2 and he finished with 20 saves on 22 shots. So that is a silver lining, and reassuring to an extent. But Bishop was clearly a bit rusty, plus the team in front of him didn’t help and was not playing well at all.
2. Did the Avalanche Shoot Their Load?
We all knew the Avalanche were capable of games like this and saw it in the previous round against the severely overmatched Arizona Coyotes when they closed out the series with back-to-back 7-1 games. We all were probably a little surprised that it took this long for them to explode in the second round, too. But was it just because their backs were against the proverbial wall of elimination?
Surely they are capable of doing this for multiple games, but Dallas will have a few days to let this loss marinate and it would be a complete shock if Game 6 has a different tone and feel to it. The Stars had a 3-1 cushion in the series and it showed in Game 5. The Avs were flying up and down the ice, all night long, they looked hungrier and desperate, and it was apparent early.
The Stars also took too many penalties in the first two periods, preventing themselves from getting any type of rhythm going. But it should be noted that the penalty killers were excellent in Game 5, going a perfect 6-for-6 on the kill and that all six of Colorado’s goals came at even-strength.
Dallas also didn’t quit and they controlled the pace of the final twenty minutes. Obviously, the deficit was way too cavernous but there was possibly some good that they can take away from the final period.
3. Gurianov = Great
In the loss, one of the biggest silver linings was the continued great play of rookie Denis Gurianov, who assisted on all three of the Stars goals – two of which came on the power play. On a night where a lot of players were somewhat invisible for far too long, Gurianov was noticeable just about every shift in Game 5 and his passing prowess was on display with two primary assists on both of Dallas’ power-play goals.
The 23-year-old budding star now has six points (2g-4a) in his last four games and a total of 13 points (8g-5a) in his first 14 career playoff games. Most non-Stars fans probably didn’t know that Gurianov led the team in goals during the regular season, but if they’ve watched this team during the postseason they know who he is now.
He is leading all Dallas forwards in points, is second on the team in that category behind the magnificent Miro Heiskanen (18 points), and tied with teammate Joe Pavelski (as well as MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri) for second in the league in playoff goals.
Game 6 will be Wednesday, Sept. 2 and if necessary, Game 7 would be Friday, Sept. 4.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.