Stars Game 1 column 5724

DALLAS -- Matt Duchene couldn’t really take much from the Dallas Stars managing to get to overtime.

“Yeah, I mean, we shouldn’t have gotten to overtime. We were up 3-0,” the Stars forward said after their 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round at American Airlines Center on Tuesday.

Yes, that was the Stars’ lead on the Avalanche after the first period on Tuesday. The Stars came out exactly the way they wanted, perhaps even a little better than expected. They were playing their game and they built a solid lead on their Central Division foes.

Then the second period began, and things started going awry. The Stars took penalties, which the Avalanche turned into power-play goals from forward Valeri Nichushkin and defenseman Cale Makar. The Stars struggled to complete passes. They no longer had traffic in front of Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.

They didn’t challenge him with many chances, either. They had seven shots combined in the second and third periods after scoring three goals on nine shots in the first.

"You can't take a breath with these guys,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn, who had a goal and an assist. “They're a great team, they come at you. I think they took over that second period and found a way to get one early in the third. We had our chances to win that game.”

Stars coach Pete DeBoer expected “some fatigue and a little bit of an emotional letdown” after their dramatic 2-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of their first-round series here on Sunday.

“I was actually surprised at how sharp we were to start, but it did hit us in the middle part of that game,” he said.

“You also knew that [the Avalanche] might be a little rusty at the start, but as they got comfortable, they’d get better because they had been off for a week. I think that’s probably what you saw. I was actually surprised how well and how hard we pushed in overtime. I thought we had the better looks at that point.”

For sure, the Stars had their opportunities in overtime, but were thwarted by Georgiev. Forward Tyler Seguin had two outstanding scoring chances, a tip in at 4:18 and a snap shot at 4:50. Forward Wyatt Johnston, whose fifth goal of the playoffs gave the Stars a 2-0 lead at 10:55 of the first, also had a chance to end the game in overtime with a wrist shot at 5:07.

"I thought we came out and probably played better than our second or third,” Benn said. “Had some good looks, just didn't go our way."

The Stars lost a few leads to the Avalanche during the regular season, as well. On Nov. 18, Dallas took a 3-0 lead early in the second period on Colorado. The Avalanche scored six unanswered for a 6-3 win. On Jan. 4, the Stars led 4-2 midway through the third period; then the Avalanche scored three times, including in overtime, for a 5-4 win. On Feb. 27 they led 1-0 before the Avalanche scored five unanswered goals to beat them 5-1.

The Stars are also not new to Game 1 losses at home. They lost their first two here to the Golden Knights in the first round. In the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they lost Game 1 of the first round to the Minnesota Wild in the second overtime, then dropped Game 1 of the second round against the Seattle Kraken in overtime.

Keep in mind, the Stars came back to win all of those series. Game 2 against the Avalanche is here on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; MAX, truTV, TNT, SN360, SN, TVAS) and the message is clear: the Stars have to clean things up, play their game throughout and even up the best-of-7 series.

“We want to split here,” Duchene said. “We’re a great road team and if we put ourselves in a position to go to Denver 1-1, I think that gives us a good chance. We’re confident on the road. We’re good there.

“They’re great at home, but you have to have it here next game. I think Game 2 against Vegas we were probably the better team and didn’t get the result. But we have to make sure we get it next game.”

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