Sun. May 26th, 2024

Avalanche Johnston scores twice, Stars push Avalanche to brink with Game 4 win



Wyatt Johnston scored twice and assisted once as the Dallas Stars dominated the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-1 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round at Ball Arena on Monday.

This win marks the Stars’ third consecutive victory in the best-of-7 series. Game 5 is scheduled to take place in Dallas on Wednesday.


“It’s a positive development, but we remain aware that the final victory is often the most challenging to secure, especially considering our opponent’s resilience. Despite their apparent setbacks tonight, we expect them to regroup and respond strongly,” commented Dallas coach Pete DeBoer. “We must prepare for a fierce challenge in the next game.”


Prior to the game, Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin entered Stage 3 of the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. As per program regulations, Nichushkin will undergo a suspension without pay for a minimum of six months, after which he can seek reinstatement.


“Val is obviously dealing with some personal challenges,” remarked Colorado coach Jared Bednar. “From a team perspective, it’s unfortunate and impacts us. He’s a valuable player.


“Having gotten to know Val personally and as a teammate, my priority is his well-being. I want him to find happiness and fulfillment in his life, whether that involves our team or not. His health and happiness are paramount. We all wish him the best and hope he finds the support he needs. While hockey is important, it’s not everything. Val’s personal journey takes precedence, even if it means he’s not with the team right now.”


Miro Heiskanen contributed a goal and two assists, Sam Steel added a goal and an assist, and Jason Robertson chipped in with two assists for the Stars, who hold the No. 1 seed from the Central Division. Jake Oettinger turned away 24 shots.


“We’re aware of their speed. We understand what needs to be done. Everyone in our locker room knows the game plan, and sticking to it has been our formula for success throughout the playoffs,” remarked Robertson. “It’s like a domino effect on our bench. One guy executes, then another, and it builds momentum. It’s inspiring to see how our adherence to the plan spreads throughout the team. When we play disciplined hockey, good things happen.”


Casey Mittelstadt found the net, while Alexandar Georgiev made 29 saves for the Avalanche, who hold the No. 3 seed from the Central.

“We seemed sluggish in the first period. Our movement was stagnant, and it looked like we were drained, despite being the more rested team,” stated Bednar. “We improved in the second, but it was still a struggle. The pace was slow, decision-making was slow, and execution was lacking. It wasn’t for lack of effort, but everything felt labored tonight.”


“Tonight, our performance was abysmal.”

Johnston put Dallas ahead 1-0 with a short-handed goal at 15:37 of the first period. After he capitalized on a turnover by Cale Makar near the goal line, Johnston managed to score on his third attempt from the edge of the crease.


Johnston then netted a power-play goal to increase the lead to 2-0 at 5:46 of the second period. He received a slap pass from Robertson below the left circle and scored with a one-timer that deflected in off the side of Georgiev. Avalanche


“It’s been a whirlwind couple of years. If you had told me I’d be in [this] position, playing in the NHL playoffs for the Stars back in 2020 during COVID, I’m not sure I would’ve believed you,” remarked Johnston, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Tuesday. “It’s been quite a journey, and I’m incredibly grateful and happy to have crossed paths with some amazing individuals along the way and to have the opportunity to be with the Stars.” Avalanche


Heiskanen extended the lead to 3-0 at 11:24 with a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that deflected off the right shoulder of Georgiev.


“We aimed to take control and have a strong start. I believe we executed well in the first period, and the second period was solid too,” Heiskanen remarked. “We defended effectively and overall, I think it was a good game. We need to maintain this level of play.” Avalanche


Mittelstadt narrowed the gap to 3-1 at 12:35, maneuvering the puck out from behind the net and slipping it past Oettinger on the far side under his glove.


“I don’t think we were playing our style of hockey. We’re overcomplicating our plays,” Avalanche forward Jonathan Drouin commented. “We can’t win two games in one next Wednesday, so our focus is on winning one game and ensuring we’re prepared for Wednesday. We’ve defeated them there before this year. We’ve also defeated them in the playoffs (in Game 1). So, we’re confident in that, but we need to simplify our game a bit.” Avalanche


Evgenii Dadonov made it 4-1 at 9:27 of the third period. Mason Marchment retrieved the rebound from Heiskanen’s point shot and nudged the puck over to Dadonov, who fired a shot from the edge of the crease.


Steel sealed the victory with an empty-net goal at 18:10, extending the lead to 5-1.

“We have a group of players in there who are committed to each other,” DeBoer remarked. “I mean, Wyatt Johnston had a chance for a hat trick with the empty net and instead passed to Sam Steel so Sam Steel could score. When you see that kind of selflessness within your group, it really spreads. I’m extremely proud of our team’s mindset.” Avalanche


NOTES: Stars forward Roope Hintz exited the game late in the first period with an upper-body injury sustained from blocking a shot. No further updates were provided. … Johnston has now tallied 11 postseason goals in his career. He becomes the eighth player in NHL history to score at least 10 playoff goals before turning 21, joining the ranks of Jaromir Jagr (14), Jordan Staal (13), Jeremy Roenick (12), Brent Sutter (12), Wendel Clark (11), Dan Quinn (11), and Claude Lemieux (10). … Drouin returned to the lineup after missing Colorado’s first eight playoff games due to a lower-body injury. He contributed one assist and was minus-2 in 19:12 of ice time. Avalanche

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