In order to win hockey games, a team has to take what it practiced and implement it into game situations.
On Sunday evening, the Colorado Avalanche did not actualize what it had prepared for and fell 7-2 to the Dallas Stars at Pepsi Center.
"Poor start again. If you look at the goals, I mean, poor execution," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said after the loss. "To me, I always feel like execution is you playing, getting prepared and the intensity level you play at. If you have the right intensity level in a game, you are going to talk, you're going to get through the holes, you're going to execute. If it's too casual, then you are going to miss-execute and that is exactly what we did."
The Avalanche outshot the Stars 11-5 in the first period and had a 21-12 shot attempt advantage, but the score was 2-0.
"I think everybody looked ready and everything, but the first period we were down two," said forward Mikko Rantanen. "That can't happen on home ice definitely. It was a tough, tough first period. I think that set up the tone for the whole game. We respond pretty good in the second, but still it's unacceptable."
Rantanen got the Avs on the scoreboard in the first minute of the second stanza after Nathan MacKinnon sent him a cross-ice pass in a 3-on-2 situation. The tally made the score 2-1, but Dallas found the back of the net on its eighth and ninth shots of the game to stretch its lead to 4-1.
"The last couple of games, we've been a little lethargic and that's on the leaders of the team to make sure we start the game off right, and we haven't," said Avs veteran Erik Johnson. "It's frustrating. The onus is on the leadership. You know, we'll take responsibility for that because we have to make sure everyone is ready to play and everybody wasn't ready to play tonight and that's on us."
Video: Erik Johnson after the Avalanche's loss to Stars
It looked like momentum might have turned into the Avalanche's favor when Colorado's won its second coach's challenge of the season in the second period, nullifying what would have been the Star's third straight goal.
Radek Faksa got the puck past netminder Semyon Varlamov but after video review, it was determined that Tyler Pitlick prevented Varlamov from doing his job and the goal was disallowed because of goalie interference.
Shortly after, Blake Comeau netted the Avs' second goal to make it 4-2 at the second intermission, but the Stars came back firing early in the third and Colorado could not catch them.
"We are getting to the point of the season where we can't keep repeating these mistakes," said Bednar. "To me, that's three to four at home that the starts are poor. They're poor. You can't take periods off, you put yourself behind the eight ball.
"Our leadership has been strong all year, we needed more here for the home games. We are short a guy or two that help in that sense. So, other guys got to step up. We saw it from some guys and then other guys didn't, they didn't elevate their game. That's what we need. We need guys to elevate their game to prove they can kind of fill in and be productive and for me, throughout this homestand, no one's really stepping up and earning more."
On the season, Colorado is 8-4-1 on home ice, with the overtime loss coming to the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 10 in Sweden, which counted as a home game. But the Avalanche 1-3-0 in the first four contests of its current five-game homestand.
"It's frustrating because we have been good at home, and a team that's really been tough to play against lately. The last couple games it hasn't been that way," said Johnson. "It's got to change, and we will rectify it and make sure it does."
The test will be how the Avs can respond as they play at Pepsi Center on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres before heading east for a four-game road trip.
"You have to look [at it] like must-win, like a playoff game for us," said Rantanen. "Five-game homestand, we are 1-3 right now. We have to win the last game. Everybody needs to get ready tomorrow to make sure we are out battling the opponent on Tuesday."
The key to being prepared for the matchup is to forget about the disappointing loss and get back to how the team played at home at the start of the season.
"You have to just flush it down the toilet and focus on the next one," Johnson said. "I mean, we played horrible. We gave them everything that they got tonight, and that's really the bottom line."
Video: Coach Jared Bednar's postgame press conference
PENALTY KILL AT PEPSI
Colorado did not allow a power-play goal on Sunday as it continued to kill penalties on home ice. The club abolished all four shorthanded situations it faced against the Stars.
"The guys are doing a great job on the penalty kill," Rantanen said, "They work hard, every guy there. It's a big responsibility, and they did a great job today. Just have to step it up on the other end."
The penalty-kill unit ranks fourth in the NHL at home (91.1 percent), allowing just four goals in 45 chances on home ice.
EJ HITS 600 MARK
The contest was defenseman Erik Johnson's 600th NHL game. However, he would have rather celebrated with a win.
"I knew about it and it's nice to hit those, but I would take a win over that anytime," he said after the game. "Anytime you hit a milestone it's fun, but I will take team achievements over individual ones anytime."
He leads the Avalanche in average ice time at 26:24, fifth highest in the NHL.
"He has been real strong for us," Bednar said during the team's morning availability. "The amount of minutes and the situations he is playing in, it just showing that is becoming a top defender in this league."
During his 600 outings, he has registered 246 points (63 goals, 183 assists).