The Dallas Stars had the Colorado Avalanche where they wanted them, on the precipice of taking what is typically an insurmountable 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.
There were the Stars with a one-goal lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday. They had momentum on their side, having scored three goals in a span of 6:05 in the third period to come back from down two goals.
“We kind of had them on the ropes,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “They’re a good team, they’re not going to just give it to us.”
The Avalanche, the second seed in the West, took it back, all of it, tying the game 75 seconds after the Stars, the third seed, took a lead. Colorado scored twice more for a 6-4 win.
The Stars still lead the series, but it’s 2-1 instead of 3-0.
Could that swing in the series and potential swing in momentum have an impact on the Stars’ psyche going into Game 4 on Friday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS)?
“We’ll respond,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said.
The Stars have no reason to doubt their ability to do so.
They were down 3-1 in Game 3 and responded with the three straight goals in the third period from Denis Gurianov (4:42), Blake Comeau (9:02) and Benn (10:47).
“I liked our push, but we need it for 60 minutes,” Benn said.
They were down 2-0 midway through Game 2 against the Avalanche on Monday and came back for a 5-2 win.
They were down 3-0 in Game 6 against the Calgary Flames in the first round and scored the next seven goals for a 7-3 series-clinching win.
In the regular season, the Stars finished tied for first with the Washington Capitals for most wins when trailing after the first period (11) and after the second period (nine). They led the League with a .440 winning percentage when trailing after the first period (11-13-1).
Just think back to the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, when they were down 2-0 against the Nashville Predators and rallied for a 4-2 win at Cotton Bowl Stadium.
“We’ve responded all year,” Bowness said. “I’m very confident in our group, in that room, in the leadership and character of the players and their desire to win.”
They’re not shocked that the Avalanche punched back when they did and as hard as they did in Game 3 either.
“There’s no chance we thought we were going to sweep this hockey club,” Bowness said. “It’s a very good team over there. We knew it was probably going to be a six- or seven-game series much like it was with Calgary. Hopefully we don’t get there, but if we get there, we get there. We’re not going to dominate that hockey club. They’re too good. They’re too talented.”
Like the Avalanche in the first two games, when they felt their mistakes created their demise, the Stars feel they handed Colorado too much in Game 3, mistakes they believe are correctable.
Colorado’s first goal one minute into the second period came off a face-off win after the Stars iced the puck, keeping tired skaters on the ice.
The Avalanche took the lead on Andre Burakovsky‘s goal at 4:41 of the second after the Stars brought the puck back into their zone and turned it over.
A miscommunication between Esa Lindell and Jason Dickinson created the opportunity that led to Gabriel Landeskog‘s goal that gave Colorado a 3-1 lead at 11:00 of the second.
“We gave them a couple of goals in the second period, which is a little upsetting,” Bowness said. “We can address that and we can fix that.”
The Stars didn’t think they could do much on Colorado’s game-tying and go-ahead goals in the third, so it wasn’t of great concern to them.
Mikko Rantanen made it 4-4 at 12:02, scoring off a 2-on-1 with Nathan MacKinnon created because Miro Heiskanen lost an edge and fell down. Nazem Kadri made it 5-4 by scoring on a deflection at 13:54.
“There was a bad bounce on their fourth goal, just turned out to be MacKinnon and Rantanen coming the other way and they’re pretty dangerous,” Benn said. “Then they get a deflection goal. It’s nothing we can’t handle. We just needed to make one strong push there.”
Time ran out on them in Game 3, but Bowness said they’ve got plenty of it left in this series.
“I’m very confident,” Bowness said.