How the Avalanche overcame a 3-goal deficit to win Game 1: 5 takeaways

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DALLAS — OK, so my money wasn’t on Miles Wood as the overtime hero.

But what a beauty, eh?

The Colorado Avalanche’s third-line winger has always had excellent speed, and he displayed it 11:03 into overtime Tuesday night, exploding down the left side, skating around star defenseman Miro Heiskanen no less, before beating Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger with a nifty backhand deke.

The Avs stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to take Game 1, 4-3 before a stunned American Airlines Center crowd.

This series was shaping up to be a classic matchup of Cup contenders, and Game 1 didn’t disappoint.

Does anyone remember the Avalanche losing a game in these Stanley Cup playoffs?

Ever since dropping that wild, 7-6 opening loss to Winnipeg on April 21, the sizzling Avs have now won five straight and, in the process, have made two excellent defensive teams show cracks.

It’s just one game in this series, but numbers don’t lie. According to Natural Stat Trick, scoring chances were 25-12 for the Avs in this game.

Rust vs. rest

I was chatting with Paul Maurice on Sunday, a day after the Bruins outlasted the Maple Leafs in overtime of Game 7, and the Florida Panthers head coach expressed concern about teams riding into the next round just 48 hours later riding a Game 7 high. And well, his concern was well justified as the Bruins won Game 1 handily in South Florida, just like the Panthers did a year ago after a Game 7 overtime win in Boston and then flying into Toronto and beating the Leafs in Game 1 after barely getting a breather.

Full adrenaline, that’s what it is. Get right back at it, feeding off the Game 7-winning high.

And so that stuck with me entering Game 1 of this Avs-Stars series, with Dallas having just beat out Vegas in Game 7 on Sunday night and then turning around 48 hours later to host Game 1.

“I want to duplicate Game 7,” Stars head coach Peter DeBoer said Tuesday morning at his media availability.

Well, he got his way for one period.

The Stars were humming right out of the gates and stormed out to a 3-0 first period lead. It was nearly 4-0, but Avs blueliner Josh Manson saved a sure goal by swatting away the puck before it crossed the goal line with seconds left in the first period during a Stars power play. As it turns out, it was a moment worth remembering given how the rest of the game played out.

The Avs hadn’t played in seven days, and it showed in the opening period. But unlike the Panthers the other night in Game 1, the Avs found their next gear. Big time.

Defending MacKinnon

Easier said than done, of course. But on the day Nathan MacKinnon was nominated for the Hart Trophy as regular season MVP, the Avs’ dynamic No. 29 had a quiet opening two periods in Game 1, at least by his lofty standards.

But it was MacKinnon wristing home a rebound from a Cale Makar shot just 39 seconds into the third period as the Avs erased a 3-0 deficit.

By the end of the night, MacKinnon was pretty darn dangerous on nearly every shift. Like the rest of his team, he shook off the rust.

DeBoer was asked Tuesday morning about the most effective way to defend MacKinnon. And the Stars coach said the best possible outcome was making the Avs superstar spend most of his shifts in his own zone. And we saw some of that for sure in the opening period and some of the second period.

The cat-and-mouse game between coaches was DeBoer, as predicted, wanting Chris Tanev out on the ice every time MacKinnon was out there, and Avs head coach Jared Bednar trying to sneak as many shifts for MacKinnon as possible when Tanev wasn’t on the ice. That was slightly easier to do in the second period with the long change.

It was also interesting that MacKinnon’s tying goal on the opening shift of the third period came with Tanev on the bench. I wonder why Tanev wasn’t on the ice there.

But that’s going the matchup of the series to be sure, Tanev vs. McKinnon.

Powerful power play

The Avalanche lit up the Jets with six power-plays goals on 16 opportunities (37.5 percent) in the opening round, and the Stars have been absolutely concerned about making sure they limit those opportunities in this series. Discipline will be paramount for the Stars.

Case in point, the second period here Tuesday night. The Stars were up 3-0 before taking back-to-back penalties.

The Avs cashed in on both, first with Valeri Nichushkin scoring a power-play goal and then with Maker, and suddenly it was a one-goal game in the blink of an eye. The Avalanche are absolutely lethal on the power play, and Makar’s wrist shot was a thing of beauty Tuesday night.

The penalty which led to that second power play can’t happen, either. Stars winger Craig Smith wrapped his hands around Makar behind the Avs’ net while on the forecheck. The crowd hated the call, but it’s a penalty all day long and one you can’t take 200 feet from your own net. Those are the type of penalties Dallas can’t take in this series. Not with that Avs power play.

Those two power-play goals gave Colorado life, and the Avs finished a strong second period, coming at Dallas in waves and forcing turnovers and certainly getting better looks. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Avs enjoyed a 10-1 advantage in scoring chances at five-on-five in the second period, even though they didn’t score at even strength.

But the tide had shifted, setting up MacKinnon’s early third period tally to tie the game.

Stars’ D deployment

DeBoer basically played five defenseman for the final five games of the first-round series against Vegas.

Stars No. 6 blueliner Nils Lundqvist played 2:21 in Game 3 against Vegas, 1:09 in Game 4, 2:57 in Game 5, 4:33 in Game 6, and 3:09 in Game 7.

It begged the question as to whether the Stars would or could do the same for an entire series in the second round.

Well, Lundqvist played just 4:07 in Game 1 against Colorado on Tuesday night, and not a single shift in the third period or overtime.

So, it appears the game plan for Dallas is to go with five D, at least early in this series. We’ll see how realistic that is as an approach against a Colorado team whose speedier forecheck wore down the Jets’ defense in Round 1. Not to mention that this is a series with a game every other day, with no double off days. Not sure if Dallas can keep going that way with five D.

Blender time

DeBoer had seen enough after a lackluster second period and put his forward lines in a blender.

The night began with:

In the third period, the Stars at one point had:

The beauty of the Stars’ forward depth, for my money the deepest in the NHL, is that you can flip a lot of these lines around without putting players in positions they’re not used to. DeBoer is never shy to change his look up front and, let’s face it, despite coming back to beat Vegas in the opening round, the Stars scored just 16 goals in seven games (2.29 goals per game).

So, it will be interesting to see how that plays out this series. They didn’t generate a whole lot after the first period on this night.

(Photo: Sam Hodde / Getty Images)

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