From a goal off the chest to another that may have just crossed the line – depending who’s asked – the Dallas Stars were getting the big bounces and breaks.
That’s what it takes this time of year.
Alexander Radulov scored on a deflection off his upper chest as part of a four-goal second period and the Dallas Stars beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the second-round series.
Trailing 2-0 in the second period, Joe Pavelski and Radek Faksa revitalized the Stars by scoring in a 43-second span during a 5-on-3 advantage.
Dallas was just getting started. Radulov knocked in the go-ahead goal when a shot bounced off a stick, into his chest and over Colorado goaltender Pavel Francouz. Esa Lindell then added another with 46 seconds remaining in the second when he knocked in a rebound to make it 4-2.
Now that one the Avalanche wouldn’t mind a little more explanation. The officials took a look to make sure the puck wasn’t frozen by Francouz before Lindell poked it in – or if it even went in at all. The call on the ice was confirmed.
“I don’t know how he sees the puck is across the line,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “I don’t know how he points at the net. I think he realized pretty quickly he messed up. Once he starts watching the video replay, I think he realizes he just went off Esa Lindell’s reaction and pointed to the net. … Excited to see what the explanation will be.”
This is how it went from Lindell’s vantage point: “Shot it there and went for the rebound,” he explained.
Bottom line, the Avalanche couldn’t recover from the third-period meltdown.
“Our resolve wasn’t where it needed to be after a bad break, a bad penalty,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “The game’s not over. We have to be better.”
The Avalanche pulled Francouz with around two minutes left in the game, but couldn’t score. Jamie Oleksiak added an empty-netter with 10 seconds left as the Stars won their fifth straight game.
“We believe in ourselves, that’s the main thing for our club,” Radulov said. “We’re going to play to the end.”
Anton Khudobin stopped 38 shots in another solid performance. He came up big in the first by only allowing a goal from Nathan MacKinnon, despite Colorado outshooting Dallas, 20-6.
MacKinnon also had an assist on Mikko Rantanen’s second-period goal. MacKinnon has a point in all 10 post-season games for Colorado, tying Joe Sakic (1996) and Marian Stastny (1982) for the franchise’s longest points streak to begin a post-season.
Francouz made 22 saves in taking over for an injured Philipp Grubauer, who along with defenceman Erik Johnson remains out indefinitely.
The 30-year-old Francouz looked sharp until the second period.
That’s when the Stars were ignited by a two-man advantage. Pavelski scored on a nifty cross-ice pass from Radulov. Then, Faksa knocked in another to tie the game.
“It was huge,” Pavelski said. “Gave us some confidence for sure.”
Soon after, Colorado went on a 5-on-3 advantage, but the team couldn’t capitalize. It was another big momentum swing.
Dallas went ahead on a wild play down low. Jamie Benn sent in a shot near the goal that glanced off the stick of Colorado defenceman Samuel Girard, bounced off Radulov and into the net. Radulov also had two goals during the Stars’ 5-3 win in Game 1.
MacKinnon scored a power-play goal in the first period and Rantanen added another power-play goal in the second. MacKinnon has seven goals and 11 assists to lead the NHL playoffs in points.
Following the series opener, Bednar called out the forwards not on the top line – MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog – for their intensity level. He wanted more or promised changes.
Changes could be in order for Game 3 on Wednesday just to get the team back on track.
“There’s no quit in this group,” Landeskog said.
Colorado will be without Grubauer indefinitely after he was hurt three minutes into the second period of Game 1 and needed assistance to get off the ice. Johnson later left following a collision with Dallas forward Blake Comeau.
Kevin Connauton replaced Johnson on the blue line. Connauton’s only playoff experience was in 2014 while with Dallas.
NOTES: Stars D Miro Heiskanen picked up his 11th assist of the playoffs. … G Ben Bishop and D Stephen Johns remain “unfit to play,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. … Colorado F Matt Calvert was ruled out with an injury. Bednar remains hopeful he will soon be available. … Rantanen and Landeskog had assists on MacKinnon’s goal. … Colorado was 2 of 8 on the power play.