The Colorado Avalanche found itself in a similar situation to where it was two days earlier when the Dallas Stars staged a comeback to erase a 2-0 lead that the Avs had held.
This time, Colorado led 3-1 entering the third period before the Stars scored three times in a matter of 6:05 to not only tie the contest but take the advantage on the scoreboard. However, Colorado showed its mettle and didn't get discouraged.
The Avalanche completed its own rally and finished the game with a three-goal run in the final eight minutes to win 6-4 in Game 3 of the second-round series at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
"For us, it's gut-check time," said rookie defenseman Cale Makar, who had three assists in the outing. "Obviously, it's not how we drew it up going into the third period like that. We get some unfortunate bad breaks, but I think we just stuck to it. We stuck to our game plan, we kind of trusted that it would pull through."
Colorado didn't tighten up during Dallas' three-goal run, as it continued to compete and execute its game plan.
Mikko Rantanen tied the contest at 4-4 during a 2-on-1 rush with Nathan MacKinnon just 1:15 after Jamie Benn gave the Stars the lead, and Nazem Kadri put the Avalanche back ahead after deflecting in a shot from Kevin Connauton less than two minutes later.
Video: COL@DAL, Gm3: Rantanen answers quickly to tie it
The Stars pushed in the final 6:06, but the Avalanche survived it and secured the victory with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's empty-net goal with 1:34 remaining. Dallas now leads 2-1 in the best-of-seven set, with Colorado having a chance to even the series in Game 4 on Friday.
"Obviously we would like to play better with the lead, no doubt, and just kind of stay on the attack and get some more zone time down in their end," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. "At that point, what was done was done, and we just kind of regrouped during that timeout and got back to work. Obviously Nate and Mikko come up with a big play to tie the game up a couple shifts later, and then Naz comes up with a big game-winner there. It's is a matter of the character in our room and on the bench. Obviously we understood how big this game was going to be tonight and how pivotal it can be. Now we got ourselves a series."
Video: COL@DAL, Gm3: Kadri reclaims lead on tip-in
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar could sense a shift in momentum after the Stars had tied the game at 3-3 at 9:02 of the third period, and he used his lone timeout to help his squad regroup. It didn't work initially as Dallas scored soon after, but Colorado then started clicking again on both ends of the ice like it had done through the first two periods.
It was a much different Avs squad this time around compared to the previous contest where they also tried to rally after the Stars scored five unanswered and went on to win 5-2.
"Did they show me something after that? I would say yes. I think the game previous, we were playing really good and I thought we got discouraged. We didn't respond, we didn't have the belief that we could come back and win that game, and I think we are way too good of a team to have that attitude, even if it was for a brief period of time, and it cost us," Bednar said. "Today, I could feel it on the bench. We were still in the game, still playing, needed something good to happen, we needed to get rewarded, and MacK and Mikko end up making a big play and kind of giving us life again. We had a good, strong finish to the game, so kudos to our guys for sticking with it."
After goals seemed to be hard to come by in the first two outings of the series, Colorado's offense finally started producing again throughout its lineup, with nearly every line contributing. Overall, it was the third time in the 2020 playoffs that the Avalanche had scored six or more goals in a game.
Unlike their back-to-back 7-1 defeats of the Arizona Coyotes in Games 4 and 5 of Round 1, this victory involved the Avalanche grinding away for every shot and tally.
"I think it is a character win. It would have been easy for us to get down on ourselves, but we understand that we can score goals in the dressing room," Kadri said. "We're pretty comfortable playing every situation. Obviously blowing the lead, it wasn't our best, but it was a game that could definitely give us some momentum and hopefully change a series."
Joonas Donskoi missed his first game of the series and his second of the postseason after being designated "unfit to play."
Bednar said afterward that Donskoi was a game-time decision.
Defenseman Nikita Zadorov left in the second period and did not play again. He did return to the Colorado bench for the third period, but he didn't take the ice surface and instead served as another set of eyes to help the club.
"He kept the energy up on the bench and the juice and kept our guys in it, gave good advice, talking on the bench, which our team needs," Bednar said of Zadorov. "He made a huge impact and hope he's going to be able to go next game."
Colorado was already without goaltender Philipp Grubauer and Erik Johnson, who are both out indefinitely after getting hurt in Game 1, and Matt Calvert, who missed his third-straight contest but is listed as day-to-day.
"I don't know the time frame of all of our guys… they're out until they're back," Bednar said. "I don't know for how long all of them going to be. I still consider some of them day-to-day and some will probably be longer."
The Avalanche delivered 71 hits in Game 3, the most ever in game for the team--regular season or playoffs.
The focus on being more physical came after the Stars out-hit the Avs 60-29 in Game 2. Dallas had 55 hits on Wednesday.
Colorado had already set a new franchise record for hits in a contest by the second period, as it totaled 51 after 40 minutes. The Avs' previous best for hits in a playoff game was 46 set on April 17, 2019 versus the Calgary Flames, and the previous regular-season high was 51 set on Nov. 30, 2015 at the New York Islanders.
Captain Gabriel Landeskog led the way with 12 hits, the most by an Avalanche player in the playoffs since the stat began being tracked in 2005-06.
Logan O'Connor played his first career game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Joonas Donskoi was unavailable for Game 3.
O'Connor played 7:44 and began the contest on the fourth line with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Nieto. He registered four hits and a blocked shot, while also playing 56 seconds on the penalty kill.
Born in Missouri City, Texas, but grew up in Calgary, Alberta, O'Connor scored twice while appearing in 16 contests for the Avalanche during the regular season.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
Nathan MacKinnon extended his point streak to 11 games, establishing a new franchise record for the longest such streak in the postseason. He surpassed Joe Sakic (10 games in 1996) and Marian Stastny (10 games in 1982). MacKinnon notched two assists and now has a league-best 20 points (7g/13a), the most points by an Avalanche player in a playoff year since Peter Forsberg in 2002 (27 points).
MacKinnon has produced multi-point efforts in five straight games (5g/8a), the first Avalanche player to do so since Peter Forsberg in 2002 (also five).
Gabriel Landeskog has registered at least a point in five consecutive contests, the longest playoff point streak of his career. He has totaled eight points (2g/6a) over that span.
Cale Makar recorded three assists and now has 11 points (2g/9a) in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most points by an Avalanche defenseman in a playoff year since 2002 (Greg De Vries, 13 points in 21 games; Rob Blake, 12 points in 20 games). He established a new franchise record for assists in a playoff game by a first-year defenseman and matched the franchise mark for most points in a postseason contest by a rookie blueliner (Jeff Brown, April 12, 1987 vs. Hartford, 1g/2a). Makar's three points are the most ever by an Avalanche rookie defenseman in a postseason contest, and he became the 21st rookie blueliner in NHL history with three-plus points in a playoff game.
Andre Burakovsky scored his fourth goal of the postseason, a new career high for the playoffs that eclipses his previous best of three goals set during the 2016-17 postseason.
With a goal and an assist tonight, Nikita Zadorov recorded his first career multi-point game in the playoffs.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored his first career postseason goal, while Kevin Connauton registered his first career playoff point with an assist.