The Dallas Stars appear to have taken offense to pundits calling the red-hot Colorado Avalanche the favorites in the West.
At least, that’s what it looked like on Saturday afternoon.
The first place Stars came out and put a beating on the Avalanche, physically dominating the road team on their way to a 7-3 victory. The win now puts the Stars eight points ahead of Colorado, making it much tougher for the Avalanche to catch them. In April, the two teams will face-off one last time, and that game may matter a lot.
But on Saturday, it was all Stars. Even with the return of Cale Makar, the Avalanche were no match for the home team.
Sam Girard chipped in a goal and two assists for the Avalanche. Evan Rodrigues and Andrew Cogliano also scored goals.
Alexandar Georgiev stopped 14 of the 19 shots he faced. Keith Kinkaid stopped eight shots in relief of Georgiev.
Jason Robertson led the way for Dallas, scoring two goals and assisting on another. Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski each chipped in with two points.
The Stars came out in the first period and punched the Avalanche right in the mouth. They set the tone physically, throwing Avalanche skaters around. Artturi Lehkonen took two big hits early from Stars players that really got the crowd into it.
It translated to the scoreboard as well.
Just 3:33 into the game, Evan Rodrigues failed to clear the zone, and the Stars turned the puck back. Hintz found a wide open Robertson coming in, and he beat Georgiev to give the Stars the early lead.
They got on the board again halfway through the period. Jamie Benn meat Nathan MacKinnon cleanly off a face-off, winning the puck back to Heiskanen. The young Finnish defender got his shot past Rodrigues and through a screen to beat Georgiev. The Stars lead was now two, and Rodrigues was banished to the fourth line.
Sam Girard gave the Avalanche a little life with under four minutes to go in the first. After a nice zone entry by Alex Newhook, he skated behind the net and found a wide open Girard. The defenseman was allowed to walk in for a shot, and beat Oettinger cleanly.
That goal got the Avalanche on the board, but the Stars answered back quickly.
99 seconds later, the top line for the Stars made the Avalanche defense look silly. Similar to the first goal, they passed the puck around with little resistance. It eventually wound up on the stick of Pavelski, who got free from the checking of Lars Eller. He took a puck off his skate and put it behind a sprawling Georgiev. The Stars lead was, once again, two goals, and they carried that lead into the second period.
And the second period didn’t get any better for Colorado. In fact, it looked a lot like the first period.
A little over five minutes into the period, the Bowen Byram overstated a puck in the offensive zone. That allowed the Stars to transition the other way. Once again, they were able to work the puck around the Avalanche, until a wide open Marchment got the puck in the slot. He fired a shot past Georgiev to make it 4-1.
And six minutes later, Georgiev’s night came to an end.
A Denis Malgin turnover in the defensive zone ended up right on Esa Lindell’s stick. He put a shot towards the net that was deflected by Faksa past Georgiev. The score was now 5-1, and the Jared Bednar decided to pull his starting goaltender.
Keith Kinkaid took over for Georgiev, making his first appearance in an Avalanche uniform. This was far from Georgiev’s fault, though, as the same defensive issues that plagued the Avalanche against the Devils were once again present.
Oettinger stopped all 10 shots he faced in the second, and the Stars took a commanding four goal lead into the third.
The Stars scored a goofy goal to start the third period, as Malgin flubbed a clear. Johnston whacked at the puck, which went through Kinkaid’s legs.
Cogliano got a goal of his own later in the third, as a Girard point shot hit a body in front and bounced right to him. Rodrigues added his first goal in 11 games late, cutting it to 6-3, but that’s as close as it got.
Robertson added an empty netter to seal it, and the Stars walked away with a convincing 7-3 win over the Avalanche.
It was another ugly defensive performance for the Avalanche, but they have a chance to rebound immediately. They’re right back at it on Sunday evening, this time at home, when they take on the Seattle Kraken. The game starts at 7 PM MST.