DALLAS--For the first 37 minutes on Thursday night, Philipp Grubauer and Ben Bishop were wrapped up in a goaltending duel while their respective clubs fired shot after shot in their quest to secure a postseason spot.
The Colorado Avalanche finally broke through that stalemate with a goal from Erik Johnson and Grubauer was sensational the rest of the way en route to a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. Grubauer finished with a career-high 44 saves, including stopping 23 of 24 shots in the third period.
"Unreal, we never really had any panic in our game tonight because he was so controlled," Johnson said of his goalie. "He didn't give them one, two, three cracks at it. He was pretty solid in there, controlling his rebounds, made the big saves he had to, the easy saves he had to. He's feeling in the zone right now."
Since Feb. 23, there has been three netminders that have stood beyond the rest with strong performance after strong performance: Vegas' Marc-Andre Fleury, Bishop and Grubauer. Entering Thursday, Grubauer had just a slight edge over Bishop in save percentage (.971 versus .969) and goals-against average (0.83 vs. 0.94).
At the second intermission, Bishop had made 20 saves on 21 shots while Grubauer had stopped all 21 pucks he had seen up to that point.
"I think it's fun to play," Grubauer said of going toe-to-toe with Bishop. "You look down and the other guy is making huge saves, and he's been really hot too the last couple games. It makes it even more fun, get a good goalie battle down there. It's fun to play and fun to watch too."
Video: COL@DAL: Grubauer shuts down Benn at doorstep
Grubauer's 24 shots he faced in the third period was the most the Avalanche had seen during a frame this season, and a key moment came during a Dallas power play midway through the stanza. Grubauer made six saves during the two minutes that Nikita Zadorov was in the penalty box serving an interference infraction, which included stretching out his right pad to deny Jaime Benn's close-range attempt.
"We did a good job," Grubauer said of the PK sequence. "A couple times I couldn't see at all. Got a little lucky, got a couple huge blocks. That's the way it needs to be, sacrificing, blocking shots, reading the game."
The native of Rosenheim, Germany, was making his third consecutive start in net for the Avalanche and has won each matchup of the stretch.
In his last eight appearances, Grubauer has made seven starts and has a 5-2-0 record, 0.85 goals-against average, .972 save percentage and three shutouts.
Video: Grubauer after making 44 saves against the Stars
"He looked really good, and I've said it, you need really strong goaltending," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "The Stars have been getting it from Bishop. I think I saw a stat with Fleury in Vegas, and you look at the run those two teams have been on, and now we're getting it.
"He looks sharp, he looks athletic, fast, strong down low. Anything you want to see out of your goaltender, we're seeing it out of him right now."
Grubauer's dominant play in net has helped the Avs move into the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Colorado presently owns the tiebreaker over the Arizona Coyotes, who also have 78 points, and both clubs are just four points behind seventh-place Stars.
The Avalanche wrapped up the season series against Dallas with a 3-1-0 record and closes its annual meetings with Arizona next Friday at Pepsi Center.
BARRIE AT 300
Tyson Barrie's marker 5:19 of the second period was his 72nd of his career, tying Sandis Ozolinsh's franchise record for goals by a defenseman.
It was the only scoring record that Barrie had yet to claim among franchise blueliners, as he already set new marks this season for points and assists.
Video: COL@DAL: Barrie gets 300th point, ties club mark
The tally was his second game-winner of the season and also marked the 300th point of his NHL career, becoming the first defenseman in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to reach the mark. Selected No. 64 overall in the third round of the 2009 NHL Draft, Barrie is the third blueliner from his class to hit the milestone, joining Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman (416) and Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson (329).
"That's cool, I didn't really think about that," Barrie said of notching his 300th point. "Obviously it's always fun to hit milestones. To look back on it one day, it will be pretty cool. The two points are obviously the biggest thing right now."
Barrie has now scored in three straight games, the longest streak of his career. He has five goals and three assists in the past eight contests.
"Hockey can be a funny game like that. I feel like I've taken a lot of quality shots in the past, and they've hit crossbars or posts or the goalie makes a good save or whatever it is," Barrie said. "Right now, it just seems to be finding the back of the net. It's hard to really put a finger on anything. It's just one of those things that you got to take it when you get it."
Video: Tyson Barrie on recording his 300th point
Defenseman Erik Johnson turned 31 years old on Thursday, and he celebrated by scoring the game's opening goal.
Johnson tallied his sixth of the season on a one-time shot off a pass from Samuel Girard to give the Avs an important lead with 2:40 left in the second period. Neither squad was able to get any rubber past the netminders until then, despite several quality chances.
The rear guard, who also shares a birthday with teammate Sven Andrighetto, finished with two shots, two hits and two blocked shots in 20:36 of ice time, the most among team defenders.
Video: COL@DAL: Johnson pots Girard's feed for opening goal
Right wing Mikko Rantanen left in the third period and didn't return to the game after being checked near the benches.
"I don't know," said Bednar when asked after the contest for an update on the team's second-leading scorer. "I know he took that hit by the bench and wasn't able to finish the game. I'm hoping it's nothing serious, but I won't know until later on or until tomorrow."
Rantanen has played in all 74 games this season and has recorded career highs with 31 goals, 56 assists and 87 points.
Tyson Barrie notched his second game-winning goal of the season, both of which have come in Colorado's last three games (also: March 17 vs. New Jersey). His eight blocked shots is a new career high.
Samuel Girard tied a season high with two assists and now has 19 on the campaign, matching his career high from 2017-18.
Colorado scored two goals in the third period, giving them 96 this season to match the 1996-97 club for the most third-period tallies in a campaign since the franchise relocated in 1995.