Faced with the prospects of going home, the Colorado Avalanche got rolling early and often.
It was a flurry that saved their season – for the moment, anyway.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare began a five-goal scoring spree in the first period and the Avalanche avoided second-round elimination with a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 5 on Monday night.
The Avalanche trail the Stars 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. They’ve never won a series in team history when facing a 3-1 deficit.
Game 6 is Wednesday.
“We just decided to show our best version of ourselves tonight,” Bellemare said. “We had to show our best self.”
Andre Burakovsky, Nathan MacKinnon, Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen also scored in a 2:36 span to help the Avalanche jump out to a 5-0 lead in the opening period. They never glanced back. The five goals broke the franchise post-season record for a period.
“I like playing under pressure,” said Burakovsky, who also added a goal in the second and had an assist. “I really enjoy playing those big games.”
Colorado goaltender Michael Hutchinson made an unexpected start as he stepped in for Pavel Francouz, who was deemed by the team unfit to play. Hutchinson earned his first NHL playoff victory by turning back 31 shots.
No nerves, either. The big lead certainly helped.
“It’s always fun as a goalie when you’re watching them play down at the other end,” Hutchinson said. “I don’t think it takes any less pressure off of you. Dallas has a very good offensive team, too.
“As a goalie, you’ve just got to stay calm. ... You just have to stay level and stay present in the moment.”
Stars starting goaltender Ben Bishop surrendered four goals before being replaced by Anton Khudobin with 6:17 remaining in the first. Despite being deemed “unfit to play” after the morning skate, Bishop surprisingly made his first appearance in net since Aug. 13.
“I’ll take blame. I’ve got to be better,” said Bishop, who faced 19 shots. “The guys have been fighting hard all series, and you’ve got to come up with the saves there.”
Miro Heiskanen and Joe Pavelski scored second-period goals. Jamie Benn later added another late in the third period and Denis Gurianov had three assists for a Dallas team looking to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2008.
“We just clearly weren’t ready to play, weren’t ready to compete,” Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said. “Nobody was ready. To defend against that team, it takes hard work. There’s no sugar-coating it, it was clear what was going on. We got outworked and we got outhustled and it starts with being ready to play, and we weren’t.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar noticed a different demeanour from his squad all morning.
“Our team has a little snarl on,” he explained.
They played with a chip, too.
Colorado had as many goals in the first period (five) as Dallas had shots (five).
Bellemare ignited the offence with a tally 4:37 into the game. They scored the next four in a 2:36 span, which was the second-fastest four-goal flurry by one team in a single playoff game in NHL history. The record is 2:35 by Montreal in Game 5 during the 1944 semis against Toronto, according to the league.
The game turned chippy with Colorado out to a big lead. Blake Comeau and Pavelski were sent to the locker-room in the third period after misconduct penalties.
With a goal and an assist Monday, MacKinnon has at a least a point in all 13 games this post-season. His 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) is tops in this post-season.
Hutchinson became the third different goaltender to start for Colorado in this series. He made his NHL playoff debut in a relief role during Game 4 on Sunday, stopping all three shots he faced.
The 30-year-old Hutchinson was acquired in a February trade with Toronto. He played in one game for Colorado during the regular season – on March 2, which happened to be his birthday. He earned a 2-1 win at Detroit.
Stars D Andrej Sekera briefly left in the second period when he took a puck to the side of his head. ... Pavelski has 56 career goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs, which ranks third-most by a U.S.-born player. ... The Avalanche were without forwards Joonas Donskoi and Matt Calvert, defenceman Erik Johnson and goaltender Philipp Grubauer due to unspecified injuries. ... Hunter Miska was the backup goaltender for Francouz. ... D Cale Makar had an assist. He has 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in this post-season.