Stars let 3-0 lead ‘slip away,’ lose yet another G1

Sports

Not one. Not two. Not three. But six. That’s how many consecutive Game 1s the Dallas Stars have lost after falling to the visiting Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime Tuesday night in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Stars jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period after goals from Ryan Suter, Wyatt Johnston and Jamie Benn only to then go scoreless the rest of the way and allow four straight goals by the Avalanche, including the winner from Miles Wood nearly nine minutes into overtime.

“We had that game under control, and we let it slip away. But we’ve seen that in the regular season against them,” Stars forward Matt Duchene told reporters. “We had two games like that, so we have bounce back here and split the homestand here.”

The Avalanche jump-started their comeback by capitalizing on their power-play chances. Valeri Nichushkin trimmed the lead to 3-1 a little more than five minutes into the second period, and Cale Makar cut it to 3-2 nearly four minutes later.

Avalanche star center Nathan MacKinnon, who was named one of the three Hart Trophy finalists on Tuesday, scored the tying goal less than a minute into the third period.

“They’re a great power play,” Benn said. “They’ve got a lot of skill. We’ll have to watch some video, learn from it and move on.”

There were moments in overtime when the Avalanche struggled to find a clear shot before Wood found space on a breakaway and beat Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger for the winning goal.

“We didn’t know we could come back, but we wanted to at least try,” MacKinnon said after the game.

Learning how to make the necessary adjustments following a Game 1 loss has proved to be a familiar theme for the Stars.

The last time they won Game 1 of a playoff series came in 2020, when they took the first game of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning in a series Dallas would lose in six games.

The Stars opened the 2022 playoffs with a Game 1 loss to the Calgary Flames and fell in seven games. Last season saw the Stars open the playoffs with a Game 1 loss in double overtime in the first round to the Minnesota Wild before winning the series in six games. Dallas lost Game 1 of the second round in overtime to the Seattle Kraken before winning that series in seven games en route to reaching the Western Conference finals, where the Stars lost another Game 1 that went into overtime to the Vegas Golden Knights before dropping that series in six games.

Fast-forward to this year’s playoffs: The Stars lost the first two games of their opening-round series to the Golden Knights before ousting the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round. And now Dallas has pushed that streak to six straight Game 1 defeats with Tuesday’s loss to the Avalanche.

“I think you learn about each other as a series goes on, and what we know about that team is what happened tonight,” Stars coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think we had the lead. … They’re a quick-strike team. You can’t make mistakes in those situations. It’s a tough lesson to learn in Game 1, but glad you’re not learning it in Game 6 or 7 in an elimination game.”

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