The Stars played one of their most complete games of the 2024 postseason on Thursday and still needed a long-distance empty-net goal from Esa Lindell to close out the Colorado Avalanche, 5-3.

Welcome to the playoffs.

Dallas built a 4-0 lead in the first two periods and then held on for dear life in the third as the Avalanche tried to make a frenetic comeback for the second consecutive game. But in evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1, the lads in Victory Green not only earned a huge amount of confidence, they also did it with a significant dose of humility.

“Obviously, we have to handle those situations better, but the silver lining is that we built three and four to nothing leads, so we played some very good hockey for long stretches against them,” DeBoer said of the positives in both Game 1 and 2. “Tonight was better than Game 1. We did most of the things we wanted to do tonight. We built a lead and the right guys scored and got on the board for us. I really liked our game. They’re an explosive team with a little bit of that mojo. When they get in that spot, they can throw caution to the wind and try to create. We can be a little bit smarter in that situation, but you learn as the playoffs go on and you have to win all kinds of different ways.”

Pete DeBoer speaks to the media after Game 2

Dallas blew a three-goal lead in Game 1 and lost in overtime, but there were extenuating circumstances. The Stars had just finished out an exhausting seven-game series against the Vegas Golden Knights 48 hours earlier, and the Avalanche players were rusty from a week off. It was easy to explain that away.

Thursday was a strong statement by the Stars that they're in this series for the long haul. Not only did they repair their special teams play (scoring on the power play and shorthanded), they saw several key players break out of slumps. Roope Hintz entered the game with one point in eight games and tallied a goal and three assists. Miro Heiskanen had just one goal so far, but scored twice on the power play. And Tyler Seguin scored his first goal of the playoffs while shorthanded, and it turned out to be the game-winner.

“Those guys want to be difference-makers, and they’re used to being difference-makers,” DeBoer said. “It’s critical that those guys started to score. We got scoring from the right guys. Roope looked like Roope tonight. Miro had a couple of big goals and Tyler Seguin with a goal, so the right guys got on the board for us.”

The two teams exchanged punches in a hectic first period and both goalies looked great. Heiskanen scored 14 minutes in when Hintz made a fantastic pass on a power play to give Dallas a 1-0 lead, and Jake Oettinger made that stand up when he made several key saves late.

The Stars then dominated the second period, outshooting Colorado 15-9 and outscoring them 3-0 in the middle frame. Hintz scored off a beautiful pass from Nils Lundkvist, who earned several big shifts after sitting on the bench for much of the playoffs. Heiskanen then snapped a shot through a Jamie Benn screen on the power play. And Seguin teamed with Benn and Thomas Harley to create a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush that overwhelmed Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev and seemed to put to rest any thoughts that Colorado could make a fourth three-goal comeback against the Stars.

How wrong we were. Former Stars forwards Joel Kiviranta and Valeri Nichushkin sandwiched goals around a Brandon Duhaime score and it was 4-3 Dallas with 3:14 remaining in the third period.

Colorado pulled its goalie and even drew a power play, but the Stars held on. Then, Lindell, who has had a knack of scoring empty-netters in his career, flung one in from 180 feet away to close out the win with 20 seconds left.

It was both rattling and reassuring all at the same time.

“It felt great,” said Mason Marchment, who returned from a six-game injury absence and tallied four shots on goal and one assist in 14:26 of ice time. “That was a great win from us and we’re going to be looking for a lot of the same stuff. I don’t think they can handle us when we play heavy and hard down low. That’s got to be our recipe for the rest of it.”

Mason Marchment speaks to the media after Game 2

Now, the best road team in the NHL will go to Denver to play the best home team in the mile-high altitude. Yeah, things don’t get any easier.

“Our group has some composure and they recognize that not every game is going to be perfect in the playoffs,” DeBoer said. “It’s about winning. We had to win tonight, we couldn’t go down 2-0 like we did in Round 1 and try to crawl out of the hole going into Colorado. It was an important win. We’ve been the best team on the road all year, so excited to get in there.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

Related Content