April 7, 2016 Game 81 American Airline Center, Dallas, Texas
Already eliminated from the playoff race, the Colorado Avalanche had a chance to spoil the Dallas Stars' hopes of clinching home ice. Yet just as bad habits have a nasty way of rearing their head, the Avalanche fell victim to their own. Turnovers, poor defensive zone breakouts, worse possession statistics, and a tendency to chase the game rather than own the game led to the downfall of the Avalanche.
Tyson Barrie started the downward trend of the game by taking a cross-checking call at 3:26 of the first period. The Avalanche; however, seemed up to the challenge and killed the penalty allowing only one shot on goal, coincidentally a fabulous glove save by Calvin Pickard. Following the penalty kill, the Avalanche had some good pressure in the Stars zone, but could not convert.
And then, it went downhill. The bad habits began to creep back in. Time and time again as soon as the defenseman touched the puck the forwards would fly the zone, leaving no breakout options. Defensive zone coverage suffered. The plan to relieve pressure appeared to be some combination of scrambling, throwing bad first passes, chipping the puck to the neutral zone, or icing the puck. As with all bad habits, these came back to bite the Avalanche as Tyson Barrie committed an egregious turnover. Pickard and Francios Beauchemin attempted to regain control behind the net, but Valeri Nichushkin came out with the puck and fed Jason Dickinson out in front for an easy goal. His first in the NHL.
All was not lost when Ales Hemsky went to the penalty box at 15:27 on a tripping call giving the Avalanche the perfect opportunity to tie the game late in the period. Unfortunately, that powerplay consisted of a number of perimeter passing, no pressure down low, and a whopping 0 shots on goal. The Avalanche would leave the first period not only trailing by 1, but with a deficit in shots on goal of 15-4.
Continuing the trend just 3:07 into the second period, Erik Johnson made a boneheaded, straight to the numbers hit against Johnny Oduya. Johnson would be ejected from the game. Colton Screviour would score 36 seconds later to make it 2-0. Not a great start, but certainly not a deficit that could not be overcome. With 1:04 left on Johnson's major penalty, Mikhail Grigorenko would take a seat due to a hooking penalty. Again, the Stars would score. This time it is Jordie Benn ripping a shot by Pickard. 3-0.
Halfway through the second period and the bad habits keep on showing up in different places. Failed stretch pass after failed stretch pass, forwards flying the zone as soon as the defense gets the puck, no offensive pressure or even structure. Where is the puck support? A scary moment arose when after a partial breakaway, Antoine Roussell crashed hard into Calvin Pickard. Pickard after some time would prove to be alright. Yet again, at 19:27 Patrick Sharp would bowl Pickard over. This time it results in a goaltender interference penalty. The Avalanche would not manage a shot on goal on the powerplay as the period came to a close.
As the third period started, the Avalanche put on full display their powerplay bad habits. Continuous perimeter passing, the same old attempt at feeding Jarome Iginla the one-timer, and no pressure down low. Again, the Avalanche managed to get 0 shots on goal. Shortly after the powerplay ended, the Avalanche were gifted another opportunity early in the period to get back in the game when John Klingberg was sent to the box for tripping. Again, the Avalanche did not get a single shot on net. 3 full powerplays, and not a single shot on net.
After the Avalanche killed a Nikita Zadorov tripping penalty, John Mitchell somehow got a stick stuck in his helmet. Another powerplay. This time, the Avalanche actually pressured the Stars. Beauchemin was rewarded with a powerplay goal, spoiling the shutout. This gave the team some jump, and they played better down the stretch, it was just too little too late.
Down 3-1, Patrick Roy, as he typically does, pulled Pickard with 3:37 to go. Not long after, Roussell scores the empty netter. 4-1. Shawn Matthias would score with one minute left to end the game at 4-2.
PLAY OF THE GAME
This goal would put the Avalanche down by two. They would never recover.
A hit by Erik Johnson straight into the numbers of Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya earned him a game misconduct and corresponding five minute penalty. Mikhail Grigorenko committed a hooking minor during Johnson's penalty putting the Avalanche in a 5 on 3 situation. Jordie Benn would soon score leaving the Avalanche in a 3-0 hole.
BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"I think we had three turnovers on that first goal, and then we had a bad penalty, score 2 goals, 3 goals, we gave up the 3 goals basically tonight and it's been the story of our season" - Patrick Roy
The Dallas Stars clinch home ice advantage going into the first round of the playoffs.
The Avalanche will host the Anaheim Ducks Saturday, April 9 at Pepsi Center. The Ducks are making a bid to become the top team in the Pacific Division and the Avalanche will have their chance to end the season with a win. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:30PM MT.