How the Avalanche avoided elimination vs. Stars in Game 5: 5 takeaways

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DALLAS — There’s still the heart of a Stanley Cup champion beating inside that Colorado Avalanche team.

Superstar defenseman Cale Makar scored twice, including the eventual game-winner 4:28 into the third period, as the Avs staved off elimination with a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 5 Wednesday night.

The Stars lead the series 3-2, with Game 6 on Friday night in Denver.

The Avalanche erased 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and, amazingly, took their first in-game lead of the entire series when Casey Mittelstadt banked one in off Stars goalie Jake Oettinger 1:28 into third period to make it 3-2. Makar then made it 4-2 less than three minutes later.

Logan Stankoven made things interesting, cutting the lead to 4-3 with a nifty re-direct, Joe Pavelski-style, to to make it 4-3 at the 5:28 mark. But while the Stars pressed the rest of the period, they couldn’t find the equalizer and Nathan MacKinnon added an empty-net goal.

Heiskanen-Makar matchup doesn’t disappoint

In a series pitting two stud blueliners in Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen and Makar, selected No.3 and No. 4 overall, respectively, in the 2017 draft, both made their mark again in Game 5.

Heiskanen now has four goals and four assists in the series, scoring again Wednesday night to give Dallas a 2-1 lead at 11:39 of the second period on a Stars power play, as he finshed off a two-on-zero break on a nice feed from Jason Robertson.

But Makar responded before the end of the second period with his patented laser wrist shot from the point on an Avs power play to make it 2-2. Makar now has three goals and two assists in the series, putting up three points in Game 1 before going pointless in three straight.

It’s just a real treat to watch both these blue-liners in this series.

Avs’ stars turn it around

Colorado tweaked its lines a bit to spread out the talent at forward, and it worked.

MacKinnon, who entered with one point and a minus-6 rating in his last three games, had one goal and one assist. Mikko Rantanen, with one point and minus-5 in his last three, had an assist. Then, of course, there was Makar, who played a team-high 26 minutes, 46 seconds, and was his usual strong self.

Stars get a Tanev scare

Chris Tanev isn’t 100 percent right now, that’s for sure. The Stars defenseman looked wobbly near the end of Game 4 after taking a huge hit from Ross Colton in the corner. The Stars kept Tanev off the ice Tuesday on the off day, and also Wednesday morning at the morning skate. I chatted with Tanev on Wednesday morning and he said he was good to go. Stars teammate Ty Dellandrea was nearby and quipped nodding in Tanev’s direction: “Warrior.”

The Stars got a scare right off the hop Wednesday night, when Tanev got hit by MacKinnon on his very first shift and went down the tunnel to the Stars’ dressing room. But he came back a few shifts later.

“He’s just a warrior,” Stars head coach Pete DeBoer said on the ESPN broadcast during the game when asked about Tanev leaving briefly. “I think he lost a couple more teeth. He’s only got a couple, so I don’t know how many are left.”

Tanev continued to get most of the matchup against MacKinnon’s top line Wednesday night and fared well.

Toews returns in a big way

Colorado got a big boost with the return of defenseman Devon Toews, who missed Game 4 with an illness.

Toews played 24 minutes, 20 seconds, second only to Makar (and tied with MacKinnon) and recorded three shots on goal and one blocked shot.

The hardest win evades Dallas

DeBoer reiterated a couple of days in a row how difficult it would be to close out an Avalanche team that won the Cup two years ago. I asked DeBoer after the morning skate Wednesday, pointing to season-saving wins by Boston and Carolina this week, why it’s so difficult for teams to try and match the same emotional desperation as the team whose season can end that night.

“Yeah, it’s always the million-dollar question,” DeBoer said. “I don’t know if you can artificially manufacture the fact that you’re sitting there when the puck drops, and you’re going home in 60 minutes of the season if you lose. It’s hard to manufacture that desperation. At the same time, as a coach, you just have to impart on your group the importance of taking advantage of these opportunities. One, because they can disappear quickly, like you see around the league. Finishing off teams and getting rest as you move forward has shown to be critical, too, when you have that opportunity. That should be where our desperation comes from.”

The Stars had a tough, seven-game series in Round 1, so there’s no question that a Game 5 win, and early advancement, would have been huge for them to get some rest.

Not to mention that Roope Hintz missed Game 5 with an upper-body injury; he’s day to day. And, as mentioned above, Tanev sure can use the rest, too.

But now this is going at least six games. Not ideal for Dallas.

(Photo: Sam Hodde / Getty Images)

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