Playoff Takeaways: Stars, Duchene overcome controversial no-goal to eliminate Avalanche

Jake Oettinger made 29 saves and Matt Duchene was the hero, scoring the game-winner in double-overtime as the Dallas Stars downed the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 to reach the Conference Final.

They say if you’re not in, you’re in the way.

Well, after being whistled for being in the way of Alexandar Georgiev’s attempt to stop an overtime goal by Mason Marchment, it only makes sense Matt Duchene was all-in on the eventual game-winner.

After more than a period-and-a-half of relentless overtime pressure by the visitors, the 33-year-old Dallas Stars forward roofed a loose puck that squirted out of a net-front scrum to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche with 11:42 left in double overtime.

The former Avalanche draft pick immediately raced up ice and slid on his knees in celebration as a stunned Ball Arena crowd looked on.

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The 2-1 win came almost a full period after Marchment’s goal was immediately waved off for goalie interference.

The earlier call, with eight minutes left in the first overtime period, sparked a late-night referendum, as Duchene was clearly positioned outside the crease, making slight contact with the Avs netminder only after being shoved towards him by Colorado defenceman Cale Makar.

When the puck entered the net vacated by the off-balance goalie, the referee waved it off, putting video review officials in a position to try finding conclusive evidence needed to overturn it.

They couldn’t, so play resumed, forcing the Stars to score again.

Studio analyst Henrik Lundqvist agreed with the call, saying the contact took away the goalie’s use of his stick.

The league issued a statement saying that Duchene, “impaired Georgiev’s ability to play his position in the crease prior to the puck entering the Colorado net.

“In accordance with rule 69.1 which states, in part, ‘Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease of defend his goal.’” 

Not many agreed, including everyone wearing bright green.

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“We feel like it was an interesting call,” said a rather even-keeled Jake Oettinger who made nine of his 29 stops in overtime, including two biggies off the stick of Artturi Lehkonen.  

“So, to be able to bounce back from that and score another one, it’s awesome.

 “We felt like we were the better team all night. We just had to stick with it. 

“They didn’t have many shots in those overtimes, so I knew we were going to get one.”

Indeed, despite the desperation called for as the 2022 champs frantically tried to stave off elimination, the Avs were outshot 11-4 in the first overtime period.

Yet, as the evening wore on, it seemed inevitable the deeper of the two teams would eventually ensure that regardless of the controversial no-goal call, they were in fact the better team on the night, and in the series.

The hockey gods have spoken, and it’s clear the Stars deserved to win Game 6, and the series. 

Regulation was as evenly-played as possible, as the Stars responded to Mikko Rantanen’s second period goal early in the third, courtesy of a beautiful Jamie Benn finish.

In overtime Georgiev drew endless chants of “Geor-gy, Geor-gy” as he made two big saves with his mask, amongst the 11 he made in the first extra period alone. All told he made 37 saves.

He kept them in the game, just as he did in Game 1 before the Avs won in OT.

So much for the narrative he’s Colorado’s weak link.

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The difference in the end was depth, and no team in this year’s spring tourney has as much of it as the Stars, who now await the winner of the Edmonton/Vancouver series.

The Canucks lead that series 3-2, and depending on whether the All-Canadian showdown ends Saturday or Monday, the West Final will get underway either Tuesday or Thursday in Dallas.

No team in the expansion era had previously beaten the last two Stanley Cup champs in the first two rounds, until the Stars did.

And they did it by shutting down likely Hart Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon, Rantanen and Makar for the bulk of the series.

In Friday’s decisive game Chris Tanev and Esa Lindell spent the bulk of their evening’s keying on MacKinnon’s line, with Tanev ending the game with 32:58 in ice time, nine blocked shots and four hits.

“They did an awesome job, they’re a great team,” said MacKinnon of a Stars team that won all three games played in Denver.  

“It’ll be a tough out [for] whoever they play next.”

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