Duchene 1

DALLAS -- It’s Monday afternoon, and Matt Duchene is at home after practice.

Finally, the forward has a chance to rest after putting the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final, scoring in double overtime of a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the second round in Denver on Friday.

Well, if you call this “rest.”

“Daddy! I’m ready to play!” his son yells.

“Are you warmed up?” Matt asks.

Matt and his wife, Ashley, have a son, Beau, 5, and two daughters: Jaymes, 3, and Ellie, 1. Matt has their names tattooed on his right forearm. They also have two dogs named for country music artists: Paisley, 13, for Brad Paisley, and Merle, a puppy, for the late Merle Haggard.

Duchene 3

Beau has a mini-stick and net on the hardwood floor, while Jaymes is jumping on a cushion with Paisley. Ashley is watching, Ellie is napping and Merle is at puppy school.

The Duchenes have allowed an NHL Productions film crew into the house, giving people an inside look at their family life in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- the joys, the stresses.

“What team are you?” Matt asks Beau. “There’s only one right answer.”

“Dallas Stars!”

Matt, of course, is Colorado. He sits on the floor, guarding a doorway as his goal, taking shots from Beau. Jaymes climbs over his legs with a book and a marker, then lies down on the cushions. Ashley sits at the kitchen table.

The game ends with Beau scoring and sliding on his knees in celebration, like Daddy did in double OT.

DAL@COL R2, Gm6: Duchene roofs rebound in 2OT, wins series for Stars

Then Matt cuddles on the sofa with Jaymes under his left arm, Beau to his right and Paisley passed out next to them. Holding a tablet, he shows the kids the replay of the double-OT goal, and they cheer.

“You’re celebrating!” Beau says.

“Good job, Daddy!” Jaymes says.

Sitting on the patio by the pool later, with Paisley lying at his feet, Matt tells the film crew that this is controlled chaos. Usually, it’s uncontrolled chaos.

“It’s amazing,” the 33-year-old says. “When I was young, I always pictured my life and kind of this, I guess -- or hoped it would be this. What it turned out to be has blown away my expectations, and I’m just beyond blessed and grateful.”

* * * * *

It has been a journey to this point, and there is still a long way to go.

In his first 14 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Avalanche, Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators, Matt made the playoffs only six times. He won only one series.

After the Predators missed the playoffs last season, they bought him out.

Duchene 2

Matt signed a one-year contract with the Stars because he thought they had a chance to win the Stanley Cup and he’d fit in with veterans like coach Pete DeBoer, defenseman Ryan Suter, and forwards Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski, each chasing his first championship too.

The Duchenes bought a house in Dallas. Ashley says they didn’t want to worry about the kids banging on the walls in a rental.

“It’s been a great transition here for us,” Matt says. “Obviously, we weren’t expecting to be in Dallas, Texas, this year, but God’s plan for us was that this year, and we found a great home here.”

After putting up 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) in 80 regular-season games, Matt had five points (one goal, four assists) in 12 playoff games entering Game 6 against the Avalanche.

“I’ve been a little bit tighter probably than I would like to be so far in the playoffs, not all the time, but I’ve almost had a little bit of a governor on myself, I think, mentally, just because I understand how much this means for this franchise and so many players within it, that this is just an unbelievable opportunity,” Matt says. “I’ve maybe made that a little bit bigger than I should, and for myself, same thing.

“I mean, this is the best chance I’ve had to win a Stanley Cup, ever. And as a kid, you dream about it, and as a pro, I’m 15 years in, and I’ve waited a long time for this.”

You might think coming home to the family would be an escape, but it’s not necessarily that easy -- and not just because the kids make it hard to, say, take a pregame nap.

“It’s hard to manage both for me sometimes, because it’s like, my mind can be on what’s going on at the rink, and then I’ve got to be dad,” Matt says. “It’s something I’m still getting better at and learning. I don’t think the kids notice often or my wife even. I try not to let it affect how I deal with the kids one on one, but your mind can definitely be split two places.”

Matt credits his coaches and teammates for supporting him.

“I think they know what’s kind of been going on and how I’ve been feeling a little bit,” he says. “I’ve been talking to them a little bit, and they’ve just been an amazing support staff, my teammates, everything. They just want me to let loose and go.”

* * * * *

He did so in Game 6 against the Avalanche.

In the first overtime, it looked like the Stars had won when forward Mason Marchment put the puck in the net at 12:31, but Matt was called for goalie interference. No goal.

Ashley was in bed, watching the game on TV and texting with the wives of Marchment and goalie Jake Oettinger.

“We were like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” she says. “‘This is not happening.’”

Matt had a breakaway 25 seconds into the second overtime. He missed the net when a defender slashed his stick, but he was encouraged.

“I felt like I was going to be involved somehow,” he says. “I just had that feeling, and I was so close on all those other things, it felt like I was going to be part of it. Mentally, I was really free and just letting it flow. It felt good.”

Then the puck came to him at the side of the net, and he made the most of the opportunity, scoring at 11:42 and making the conference final for the first time in his NHL career. He celebrated by racing down the ice, sliding on his knees, making a heart with his hands and punching a fist through it, a heartbreaker for Colorado.

Duchene celebrates

He says he has no idea where that came from. He didn’t know he did it until a teammate brought it up to him. It was just pure emotion and excitement.

“I obviously would have loved to have had a moment like that as an Avalanche when I was there,” he says. “It still bothers me that we weren’t ever able to kind of make good on that with the teams that I was on there, but I mean, my wife’s from Denver. We have a ton of friends and family there, so it was cool to definitely have a moment like that on that ice.”

Ashley says she jumped up and down on the bed in her PJs, then went to Beau’s room to wake him up.

“I’m like, ‘Buddy, we won. We’re going on [to the next round],’” she says. “He just looked at me. I’m like, ‘Daddy scored!’ And then he, like, high-fived me and just went back to sleep. It was so cute.”

One of the best parts of this is that Beau is old enough to appreciate it.

“He's really caught the hockey bug this year, and for him to be in this with me right now is really, really special,” Matt says. “Every morning, he comes and asks me, if he didn’t stay up through the game, how we did. Sometimes I have to give him bad news, but when I get to give him good news, it’s really fun.”

Matt is trying to keep that in perspective.

“Internally, inside of our room, inside of me, there’s that pressure and wanting to make good on this opportunity, and I think that’s been something new for me,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve handled it the best at times, but I think I’m getting used to that. …

“The biggest thing is, you want to turn that pressure, the gravity of the moment, into energy and excitement and try to just remember being out in the driveway as a kid. I mean, I get to watch my son do that every day. He goes out and plays with his buddies out there. He’s talking about the Stanley Cup already. He’s 5 years old. He doesn’t even really know what it means and what it is yet. That’s how I grew up, and now I’m living it.

“I need to, in the next two rounds, do a better job of really appreciating that. I think as a team we are as a whole, and guys understand the opportunity we have, so it’s only going to get harder, and we’re looking forward to it.”