As the first period unfolded Thursday night, the Dallas Stars certainly looked like a team that would be playing again on Saturday night.
But much to the surprise of just about everyone except the Stars, that game will be the opener of a Western Conference semifinal series instead of a decisive Game 7 of a quarterfinal series.
The Stars will hope to ride the momentum of Thursday’s historic comeback win when they face the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of the semifinals in Edmonton.
The third-seeded Stars spotted the sixth-seeded Calgary Flames three goals in the first seven minutes of Game 6 of the West quarterfinals Thursday night before ending the game with seven unanswered goals to earn a 7-3 win. The result completed a 4-2 victory in the best-of-seven series.
The second-seeded Avalanche last played Wednesday, when they advanced to the semifinals with their own resounding win, a 7-1 victory over the seventh-seeded Arizona Coyotes in Game 5 of a West quarterfinal series.
The stunning comeback by the Stars — fueled by a second-period hat trick from right winger Denis Gurianov — made Dallas the first team to overcome a three-goal deficit and take a four-goal lead in an NHL playoff game. Gurianov finished with four goals.
The three-goal comeback was also the biggest for the franchise since the Minnesota North Stars overcame a four-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Norris Division finals on April 28, 1985.
But climbing out of holes is nothing new for the Stars, who won eight regular-season games in which they trailed by at least two goals. They also fell behind the Flames in the series two games to one.
“Fortunately, we have good leadership on this team,” Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness said. “They could all see what we could see — it was just a mess to start. But there comes a point where that’s enough, we need the next goal. If we get the next goal, we’re back in the game. Fortunately, that’s what happened.”
The Avalanche also expect to hit the ice bursting with momentum after closing out the series against the Coyotes with back-to-back 7-1 wins. Colorado has won six of eight games between the round robin and the West quarterfinal series, including four by three goals or more.
Ten players scored at least one goal in the last two victories against Arizona, led by Nazem Kadri (four goals) and Nathan MacKinnon (two goals).
“We’re liking the fact that we don’t have too much time off between games,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said Friday. “I’m sure Dallas is the same way. Just keep playing. That is what we’re all here to do — is to play hockey game and not necessarily practice and have days off. We’re looking forward to the start (Saturday).”
The Stars swept the regular season series (2-0-2), but the Avalanche earned a 4-0 win in the second game of the round robin on Aug. 5.
Both teams are in the conference semifinals for the second straight season. Each was eliminated in seven games last year — Colorado by the San Jose Sharks and Dallas by the eventual Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues.
–Field Level Media