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Lifeless Avalanche on the brink after disappointing loss in Game 4

May 13, 2024, 10:22 PM | Updated: May 14, 2024, 1:27 pm

The Colorado Avalanche could be staring the end of their season in the face.

And no one thought it would happen like this.

The Avs lost to the Dallas Stars in Game 4 by a score of 5-1 on Monday night, and now trail their Round 2 series three games to one.

The mood was somber inside Ball Arena most of the night, and it’s hard not to think of the stunning suspension to Colorado forward Valeri Nichushkin about an hour before the puck dropped. Nichushkin was suspended by the NHL for at least six months, and is now in Stage 3 of the Player Assistance Program.

The Avalanche started slow, learning the news around the same time as the fans and the rest of the league. It was a shocker they’d be without their leading goal-scorer the rest of the postseason.

To say Colorado came out flat would be an understatement. They managed just two shots in the first period and trailed 1-0 at the break. If it weren’t for several good saves from Alexandar Georgiev, the deficit could’ve been worse. But Dallas broke through on a shorthanded goal from Wyatt Johnston after a bad turnover from Cale Makar.

Fewer than six minutes into the second, Johnston made it 2-0 Dallas. At one point, the Avalanche were being outshot a pathetic 22-4. Miro Heiskanen scored for a 3-0 Stars lead before Colorado’s Casey Mittelstadt got one back to make it 3-1. That’s where thing stood after two frames.

The Avs closed the gap in shots to start the third period, but nothing on the scoreboard. Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger made some nice stops, and then the Stars put it on ice. Evgenii Dadonov made it 4-1 with 10:33 to go and fans started to head for the exits.

Defenseman Devon Toews was a late scratch for the Avs with an illness. Caleb Jones skated in his place, and not well. Jones committed two sloppy penalties early, including the power play that set up Johnston’s second goal.

Now, Colorado will try to save its season on Wednesday night in Dallas in a do-or-die Game 5. They’ll be without Nichushkin, and might be without Toews as well.

It’s gut-check time, or a promising season could end way sooner than anyone thought possible.

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