Dallas Stars used to falling behind early during NHL playoff series

Stars center Logan Stankoven, right, takes a big hit from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Sean Walker as they compete for the puck in the third period in Game 2 of their NHL second-round playoff series in Dallas on Tuesday. (AP photo)

The Dallas Stars are in an all-too familiar hole.

This is their sixth consecutive playoff series over three postseasons, the fourth at home, that they go into Game 2 after losing the opener.

“It’s not ideal, we know that. And it’s definitely not the plan,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said Wednesday.

“You’re kind of playing with fire when you put yourself in that position enough,” forward Joe Pavelski said.

When they play Game 2 of their second-round Western Conference series against Colorado to

night (9:30 p.m. ET/TNT), the Stars will try to avoid a repeat of the opening round. Two weeks ago, they lost the first two games at home to Vegas, last year’s Stanley Cup champion, though they did fight back to win in seven games.

Stars left wing Jamie Benn chases after the play during Game 7 of an NHL second-round playoff series against the Seattle Kraken on May 15, 2023, in Dallas. (AP file photo)

In the only other NHL playoff game Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes go home in their own 0-2 hole to the Rangers. New York has won all six of its games this postseason after a 4-3 double-overtime victory Tuesday night.

Dallas twice last year lost Game 1 at home, but won the second one each series on way to rebounding to advance: in six games against Minnesota, and seven over Seattle.

The 2022 Cup champion Avalanche have won five games in a row since opening these playoffs with a wild 7-6 loss at Winnipeg. Colorado won 4-3 in overtime at Dallas, after a full week between games and then trailing 3-0 in the first period.

“I definitely feel better when I’m in a rhythm,” said Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, who scored the game-tying goal in the first minute of the third period. “I don’t love taking time off. But I think we’ll feel better as we play (Games) 2-3-4.”

Colorado has four players that have tallied points in every game this postseason: league MVP finalist MacKinnon, defenseman Cale Makar, former Stars first-round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin and Mikko Rantannen. All have multiple goals.

The Stars are still waiting for some of their big scorers to get going this postseason.

Pavelski, whose 73 career playoff goals are the most ever for a U.S.-born player and the most among active players, still doesn’t have one this postseason and just got his first assist in Game 1 against the Avs. Matt Duchene has only one goal, and the lone score for Roope Hintz without any assists was an empty-net goal against Vegas. Rookie Logan Stankoven had six goals his first 12 games after his NHL debut in late February, but hasn’t found the net since — the last 12 regular-season games and eight playoff games.

“The strength of our team all year has been if Roope Hintz’s line doesn’t score, then Matt Duchene’s line scores. If Matt Duchene’s line doesn’t score, then Wyatt Johnston’s line scores. If none of those guys score, our fourth line scores,” DeBoer said. “Our depth has to show up in this series.”


RANGERS at HURRICANES, New York leads 2-0, 7 p.m. ET (TNT)

The special-teams battle has been a rout so far. Carolina must find a way to close that gap.

The teams ranked in the top three in the regular season on both the power play and the penalty kill, including Carolina leading the league on the kill (86.4%). Yet the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers have two goals on the power play in each of the first two games while the Hurricanes are 0 for 10, going 0 for 5 in both games.

“At this time of year, special teams can win a series, win games,” Rangers defenseman Adam Fox said after Tuesday’s double-overtime win decided on – what else? – a power-play goal.

As Carolina forward Martin Necas said Wednesday: “Everybody knows it’s about the power plays and PKs. So far, they crushed us in those.”

Carolina has managed a total of 10 shots on goal on the power play so far.

“We’ve got to get a little more at the net, a little more inside,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “They’re keeping us to the outside a little too much and we’re settling for that.”

The Hurricanes have plenty of stats that have gone in their favor, posting a 20-shot advantage (82-62) and a 188-142 edge in shot attempts. Carolina has also outscored the Rangers in 5-on-5 play (5-4) and even strength (6-4), while also doubling the Rangers in shots on goal (30-15) in the third period.

Carolina has also won 53.1% of faceoffs through the two games, reversing road troubles from the first-round series against the New York Islanders (35%).

“Obviously it’s frustrating because you don’t feel like you deserve to lose two in a row there,” Necas said. “Special teams decided both of the games and they were better at those.”


AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report.


AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL


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