The preamble to Game 5 provided the Dallas Stars reason to think their second-round series against Colorado would end on Monday night.
Dallas was welcoming starting goaltender Ben Bishop back to the ice. The Avalanche were forced to start No. 3 goaltender Michael Hutchinson. And the Stars had just submitted a strong effort in a Game 4 win.
Then the game started, and any thoughts of finishing the Avs faded quickly thereafter.
The Stars blew a prime chance to advance in a 6-3 loss Monday night to Colorado, cutting their series lead to 3-2 and forcing a Game 6 on Wednesday night. The Avalanche demoralized the Stars with five goals in the first period, chasing Bishop from the net after the fourth tally and ruining his first game action in 18 days.
Colorado scored four goals in 2:36 in the first period, erasing any momentum the Stars still claimed from putting the Avalanche on the ropes with a win Sunday night. By the end of the first period, Colorado had 23 shots on goal and 30 shot attempts. The Stars had five shots and nine attempts.
It was a poor first period from the Stars. Bishop could have saved them. He didn't.
Bishop earned the surprise start on Monday night, ending a string of eight straight starts for Anton Khudobin. Bishop had not played in a game since Game 2 against Calgary on Aug. 13, listed daily as "unfit to play." On Monday afternoon, Stars interim coach Rick Bowness classified Bishop as unfit to play "at this point." Hours later, Bishop was in net.
It was tough to blame Bishop for the first goal of the game, when Alexander Radulov got caught in the offensive zone and the Avalanche raced the other way on an odd-man rush. The next three could be more easily assigned.
Bishop gave up a cushy rebound that led to Andre Burakovsky's goal. He got beat between his legs on Nathan MacKinnon's quick shot from the slot. And he failed to corral a loose puck that allowed Nazem Kadri to get on the board.
The Stars were not good in the first period Monday night. That much is clear. But had Bishop submitted a period like Khudobin did in Game 2 — when Dallas trailed 1-0 despite allowing 20 shots — and given the Stars time to wake up, perhaps the outcome of Monday night's game changes.
Instead, Bishop didn't, so Joe Pavelski, Jamie Benn and Miro Heiskanen's goals will be footnotes on a forgettable night.
The good news for the Stars — other than the fact that the game is over — is that they still have the series lead. Even with Monday's stinker, the Stars still have two chances to end the Avalanche. It's a luxury they earned by battering mediocre Colorado goaltending in the first four games of the series.
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