Francouz, Avalanche shut out Stars in Cup Qualifiers round-robin

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Pavel Francouz made 27 saves for the Colorado Avalanche in his NHL postseason debut, a 4-0 win against the Dallas Stars in a Stanley Cup Qualifiers round-robin game at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi each had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche (2-0-0), who will conclude round-robin play against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city. The round-robin will determine the top four seeds in the West for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

“I felt pretty good, especially with how we started the game,” Francouz said. “We were dominating and had a ton of good chances, then we just kept scoring and scoring, and I felt better and better every time. The guys helped me a lot today and it was a pleasure to play behind this team.”

 

[WATCH: All Avalanche vs. Stars highlights]

 

Francouz became the first goalie in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to have a shutout in his first postseason game.

“I wasn’t much nervous today, and that scared me because usually I’m pretty nervous, so I was a little bit afraid about that,” Francouz said. “It didn’t affect my performance, I guess. I don’t even know why, but I felt pretty comfortable today.”

Anton Khudobin made 36 saves for the Stars (0-2-0), who will play the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

“That team played very well tonight,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “They played faster than we did. They moved the puck better than we did. The chances that we had at the right time to get us back into the game, the chances were there, and we didn’t capitalize.

“We need to get back to the way we played for 40 minutes against Vegas (a 5-3 loss on Monday). That’s where we need to get to. That’s our game: forecheck, structure, compete. We just need to get there and stay there on a consistent basis. Tonight, it’s tough. That’s a great hockey club, and they’re fast. We had our chances to get back in the game, we didn’t capitalize.”

The Avalanche went 2-for-5 on the power play; three of their six goals in two round-robin games came with the man-advantage.

“Right now, I think there’s a raised urgency in our power play,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “The execution is better, they’re more dialed into the coaching that [assistant] Ray [Bennett] is giving them. Ray’s doing an amazing job of laying out what some of their options are, how we want it to look. That execution and that focus will help you.” 

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead at 3:19 of the first period on a power-play goal by Cale Makar, whose shot from above the circles went through a screen.

Video: COL@DAL, RR: Makar drills home PPG from the point

Donskoi made it 2-0 at 15:29 when he backhanded the rebound of Samuel Girard‘s shot inside the left post one second after a power play expired.

Vladislav Namestnikov increased the lead to 3-0 at 17:30 of the second period when he skated to the net to convert the rebound of Nathan MacKinnon‘s shot.  

Burakovsky made it 4-0 at 1:31 of the third period with a shot from the right point on the power play. 

“We’re confident when we’re playing our game, when we’re hard on the forecheck,” Makar said. “For us, just generating those offensive opportunities not only from the rush, but also from winning battles in the corners and stuff. I think as a team we really feed off that.” 

Video: Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout Pavel Francouz

Stars forward Andrew Cogliano said there’s still time to fix what has gone wrong in the first two games before playing the Blues.

“I think that game showed that mentally we have to really realize that this is the playoffs, this is tough, and it’s tough to win,” he said. “Colorado proved that tonight. When you play a team like that, they’re a highly talented team, and in order for us to beat them, and I know it’s a cliche, but we have to outwork them, we have to check them and play a simple game. We weren’t able to do that tonight.

“Clearly, mentally, we aren’t ready to do that and we have to get into that mode in this last game before we head into the playoffs. We have some time. We’re going to stick together, we’re not going to point fingers and we’re not going to abandon each other. It’s a time you’ve got to rally together with the time we have, be real about where we are and be real about getting better.”

Dallas goalie Ben Bishop, who was not scheduled to back up Khudobin, and defenseman John Klingberg were ruled unfit to play. As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.

Bowness said he’s hopeful each will be available against the Blues.

“Absolutely, that’s the plan moving forward,” he said. “They get tomorrow off. We’ll go back to work on Friday. Hopefully, we’ll have a healthy lineup for St. Louis.”

Klingberg was replaced by Thomas Harley, who made his NHL debut. The 18-year-old defenseman, the No. 18 pick by Dallas in the 2019 NHL Draft, had one hit and blocked one shot in 10:58. Harley scored 57 points (18 goals, 39 assists) in 59 games for Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League this season.

Video: Francouz, Avalanche down Stars, 2-0

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