NHL: Avalanche hope to rediscover offense in Game 4 vs. Stars

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The Colorado Avalanche entered Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series with the most goals in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Dallas Stars found a way to shut them down.

Dallas earned a 4-1 win on Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the series, and it has a chance to steal another game in Denver when it faces the Avalanche on Monday night.

The Stars bounced back from an overtime loss in Game 1 to win the past two games and can close out the series at home in Game 5 if they win Monday night. Colorado, which had the best home record in the NHL this season, has to find a way to solve goaltender Jake Oettinger to avoid an early exit from the playoffs.

“We’ve got to make it a little bit tougher on Oettinger,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

Oettinger made 28 saves on Saturday night, but it was the skaters who helped contain Colorado’s potent top line. Mikko Rantanen scored the Avalanche’s only goal, but he, Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen were held in check for most of the game.

“I don’t think a coach has ever seen a perfect game, but I’ll tell you that’s as close to a perfect road game as you can play, in my mind, in this situation,” Dallas coach Peter DeBoer said.

The Stars have never lost to Colorado in a playoff series that has gone beyond five games, and it will take at least six for the Avalanche to win this one. The teams have faced each other in five previous postseason series, with Dallas winning in seven games in three of those — two in the conference finals — and Colorado winning in five games in 2004 and 2006.

The Avalanche have already won a road game in this series and will need to take another in Dallas if they want to advance to the conference finals for the second time in three seasons.

“They won the Western Conference for a reason, so this wasn’t going to be a short series,” Colorado forward Andrew Cogliano said. “We knew it was going to be a long, hard grind, and if we want to win we’ve got to match up with them.”

The Avalanche will have to produce on the power play, something they weren’t able to do on Saturday night, going 0-for-3. Oettinger made key saves while the Stars’ penalty-killing unit was sharp.

Those early Colorado man-advantage opportunities helped Oettinger, who saw more pucks than Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.

“I would’ve rather had my workload than Georgy’s (Saturday),” Oettinger said. “Whenever you can get some shots, especially early on and just feel you’re in the game, that’s a lot easier as a goalie to get into a rhythm, not really thinking about anything. I was able to do that.”

Colorado wasn’t disappointed with the chances created but lamented a couple of mistakes that led to the first two Stars goals.

“We did a lot of great things,” MacKinnon said. “Had a lot of chances, a lot of good looks, just Oettinger was great and we made a couple of big errors that cost us.”

–Field Level Media

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