To Game 7 we go.
Cale Makar scored the game-winner and Colorado gradually piled on in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory that brought the Avalanche, once down 3-1 in the series, all the way back from the brink.
The Avalanche became the first team in this postseason to force a Game 7.
On the second period’s sole goal, Samuel Girard’s shot from the top was blocked. Mikko Rantanen located the puck and tapped it to Makar, who wristed it into the top right corner.
Michael Hutchinson, Colorado’s third-string goaltender, made 27 saves in his second straight victory. Coach Jared Bednar reiterated that the 30-year-old journeyman, who had never before appeared in a playoff game, is an easy guy to cheer for.
“For him to be able to step in and do what he’s done for us the last few games is nothing short of amazing and he deserves all the credit,” Bednar said.
“It’s an exciting time. Hopefully he can repeat his performance (in Game 7).”
The Avalanche got Bednar’s message about staying out of the penalty box. Ian Cole caught a Dallas Star with a high stick with just over seven minutes left in regulation, leading to Dallas’ first and only power play.
The special teams were far from perfect, however. The Colorado power play came up short again and again, finishing 0 for 5. The unit hasn’t scored in 11 attempts.
The Avalanche weren’t buzzing like they were early in Game 5 but were afforded time to settle in as neither team dominated the first period. Dallas struck first as Miro Heiskanen whipped a shot on net that fluttered over the glove of Hutchinson.
Less than two minutes later, Colorado got a response from Nikita Zadorov. He sent a long shot off the post and in while J.T. Compher was pushed into Anton Khudobin (20 saves).
In the third period, Nathan MacKinnon orchestrated an insurance goal, sending a pass whizzing by the face of a diving Stars defender. It wound up on the stick of Rantanen.
Once undisciplined and mentally fragile, Makar said the team’s mindset has changed during the past two elimination games.
“We have a team that’s going to fight for the end here,” Makar said.
MacKinnon later added an empty-netter. He has a point (nine goals, 16 assists) in all 14 of Colorado’s playoff games. The last player with 25 points in his first 14 playoff games in a season was Wayne Gretzky in 1993.
Hutchinson made his best save when the game was scoreless. He dove, threw a leg pad out and bodied down the puck to deny Radek Faksa. He later stared down Jamie Oleksiak while preserving the late lead.
Colorado is short on defensemen after Erik Johnson went down in Game 1. His replacement Conor Timmins was injured Wednesday and did not return. Gabriel Landeskog appeared to catch the rogue skate blade of one of his teammates, but reappeared midway through the third.
The deciding game is Friday in Edmonton, Alberta. The time has not yet been announced.
“It’s going to be the toughest game for us to win,” MacKinnon said. “I think we’ve created some momentum for our team.
“Right now we’re either winning or learning. That’s the key. We’re looking for the same effort, same responsibility tonight, but a little better start.”