Jared Bednar, looking calm as he sat at the podium after the game, blasted his team for its performance Saturday.
“We had half our team not show up to play,” the Colorado Avalanche coach said.
They lost to the Dallas Stars 5-3 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton. They chased the Stars the entire game, on the ice and on the scoreboard.
They also lost goalie Philipp Grubauer to an apparent left leg injury that could keep him out for a while, and defenseman Erik Johnson to what could be a lower-body injury. Forward Matt Calvert was a late scratch after skating in warmups, deemed unfit to play.
[RELATED: Complete Stars vs. Avalanche series coverage]
But the injuries were not what Bednar identified as a reason the Avalanche trail the best-of-7 series with Game 2 in Edmonton, the West hub city, on Monday (9:45 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS).
The team that wins Game 1 is 485-220 (68.7 percent) winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series, including 7-1 in the first round.
“I can pick apart a lot of that game that I didn’t like, but when it comes down to it, they were a team engaged, ready to go,” Bednar said. “We had a little bit of a slow start and weren’t ready to engage and compete the way we needed to to win the hockey game. I thought we were starting to come for a while, but we weren’t. That was just our big guys playing.”
Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon had two goals and an assist and was plus-3 in 24:14 of ice time, including 10:27 in the third period.
Forward Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and an assist. Mikko Rantanen, the third forward on Colorado’s top line, had an assist and was creating havoc on the forecheck.
“Obviously, our big guys had a good night,” Bednar said. “They were here to compete, play to win the hockey game, and we had a lot of guys that weren’t. When I say a lot, I’m talking half the team.”
Defenseman Ian Cole and forward Andre Burakovsky were minus-3. Forwards Joonas Donskoi, J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost, and defenseman Nikita Zadorov were minus-2.
Compher, Colorado’s third-line center, didn’t have a shot attempt. Neither did Donskoi, the second-line right wing.
“I did not like our [defense] corps tonight. I did not like a lot of our middle-six wingers,” Bednar said. “We had a couple workers in the bottom six, but we did not have enough people playing. You might be able to get away with one or two passengers at this time of year, but you’re not getting away with any more than that, not against a team like Dallas. That’s on us, that’s on me as a head coach, and we need to be way better. We’ll take a day to prepare and look at things and we’ve got to get ready to get engaged in this series.”
The Stars scored their first goal after a failed exchange behind the net by Grubauer and Johnson. A pair of defensive-zone turnovers by forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Cole led to the second goal. Dallas scored its third after beating Colorado on a loose-puck battle in their own zone that led to a rush the other way.
A neutral-zone turnover helped set up the Stars’ fourth goal. On their fifth goal, Zadorov took himself out of position by taking a run at Dallas defenseman John Klingberg instead of making a play on the puck.
“Our brains were not turned on and we weren’t engaged,” Bednar said. “It’s kind of a lethal duo for us. We have to be way better. There’s no use beating around the bush on it. Everyone knows it. Everyone watched it and can see it.”
Bednar said he ripped into his team after the game.
“They have to know exactly how we feel as a coaching staff,” he said. “I’m sure other players in the room were thinking it too.”
MacKinnon was likely one of them.
“I felt like we kind of put our foot in the water and just kind of wanted to see how they would play versus how we know how we need to play,” he said.
He didn’t really know why that happened either.
“I don’t know, that’s just human nature, I guess,” MacKinnon said. “They came out flying, put us on our heels, and we didn’t respond the way we needed to. You prepare, you watch video on the other team, you’re so focused on them that maybe you forget the way (you play). We tried to relay that message that we can watch video on them all we want but we have to play our game if we’re going to win. Tonight, they came out harder than us, they seemed like they were more competitive than us.
“I don’t know, it’s just an off night, I guess. No excuse for that.”