COL off day 51424 Tonight bug

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche know what they’re capable of, especially when it comes to production.

After two relatively quiet games, they’ll likely need that production to resurface to stay alive when they visit the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS).

The Stars lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.

“We're playing two of the best defensive teams in the League the first couple series here,” Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon said. “It's a challenge, but we're the best offensive team in the League, so there's no excuse there.”

The Avalanche, who averaged an NHL-best 3.68 goals per game in the regular season, had few issues scoring against the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, despite the Jets allowing 2.41 goals per game during the regular season (tied with the Florida Panthers for the fewest in the NHL). Colorado scored five or more goals in each of the five games in that series.

It was looking like the Avalanche would do well against the Stars, too, when they scored a total of seven goals in their first two games, which they split at Dallas: They won 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 and lost 5-3 in Game 2.

The Avalanche, however, have mustered a combined two goals the past two games. Their power play has gone 0-for-8 in the past three games.

Coach Jared Bednar reiterated Tuesday that the Avalanche were “frozen” in the first period of their 5-1 loss in Game 4 here Monday, getting outshot 16-2. He said they were better as the game went on.

“But the problem is at that point, they already have the lead and we’re chasing the game,” he said. “So we have to make something happen and we’re having a tough time doing that, being productive in O-zone play and they necessarily don’t have to do anything.

“So, they can just sit back and wait and try to capitalize on our aggressiveness. They don’t have to go out of their way to look for offense because they’re comfortable playing with a one-goal lead. So, again, it comes down to getting a start and trying to get a lead.”

NHL Tonight talks Game 5 of the Stars vs. Avalanche

If the Avalanche get an early lead in Game 5, it will be their first lead of the series. Does that mean an automatic turnaround? Hard to say, but it gives them a better chance against the Stars, who go into shutdown mode whenever they get a lead.

“We have to find a way to get going,” MacKinnon said. “The power play has to be a difference-maker. We have to be a lot better, especially early on. Just try to find ways. There are some looks out there, we just, when you beat that defense, you have [Jake] Oettinger in net too, so it's tough.”

MacKinnon took some of the blame for Game 4, saying, “We stunk early, I was bad. I’ve got to be better, especially early.” MacKinnon, who had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the first round, has three (one goal, two assists) in this series.

But he’s not the only one Dallas has quieted. Forward Mikko Rantanen and defenseman Cale Makar also each had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in the first round. Each has three points (one goal, two assists) in this series, with Makar’s all coming in Game 1. Forward Artturi Lehkonen, who had eight points (five goals, three assists) against the Jets, has one assist against the Stars.

Colorado no longer has forward Valeri Nichushkin, who was placed in Stage 3 of the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program on Monday and is suspended without pay for at least six months. He had 10 points (nine goals, one assist) in eight games in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bednar said the Avalanche “have some things we’ve looked at to try and get more dangerous” as far as shot quality goes. They need something. They need goals of any kind right now. Otherwise, there won’t be any more chances.

“We can shoot it quicker at times. I think our decision-making hasn’t been real sharp in some of those areas,” Bednar said. “Even though we’re working hard enough to get the puck and have the puck in O-zone play, it’s going to be a struggle, and it’s going to be a battle to get to the net. We just have to make sure we’re fighting through it in different ways.

“We’ve got some good ideas and when we do it and execute it, we’re getting some looks and some opportunities. It’s about tracking down another rebound, another tip of a loose puck and executing when something’s there where we can break them down.”

Related Content