Sports Minute: Avalanche, Flyers look to avoid deep series holes
By VIN A. CHERWOOAP Sports Writer
The Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers will look to rediscover their offensive prowess to avoid falling into deep holes in their conference semifinal series.
The Avalanche go into Game 3 against the surging Dallas Stars (10:30 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) on Wednesday night after being outscored 10-5 over the first two games.
Colorado’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog has accounted for all of the scoring in the series, with MacKinnon (three goals, two assists) contributing to each, raising his postseason totals to seven goals and 11 assists.
“Our top line has been great all year, especially in this series,” left wing J.T. Compher said. “Our depth guys -- myself included -- it’s time to look in the mirror and time to produce and step up. We know our season is not completely on the line but Game 3 is a huge one for us and our guys are going to be ready to step up and be that four-line team that got us to where we are now.”
Where the Avalanche are now is facing tough -- though not impossible -- odds as teams that take a 2-0 lead in best-of-seven series have gone on to win 328 of 379 times.
“For us, it’s a seven-game series for a reason,” said Landeskog, who has a goal and two assists in the series. “We’ve been up 2-0 before and we know how quick it can turn and all of a sudden -- tie series. It’s a seven-game series for a reason, and there’s no quit in this group.”
The Flyers go into Game 2 against the New York Islanders (3 p.m., NBCSN) after being shut out 4-0 in the series opener.
Philadelphia managed 15 shots on the Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov in the second period, with several good looks and scoring chances, and finished with a 25-14 edge over the final 40 minutes. Varlamov stopped everything for his second straight shutout.
“You got to score to win games,” Philadelphia center Kevin Hayes said. “You can get as many good looks as you want and pat yourself on the back but if you don’t score it’s pointless. I thought we played with speed and got pucks behind their net but ultimately we need to cash in on some of those chances.”
Teammate Claude Giroux agreed.
“The top players got to play better -- I’m obviously one of them,” said the center, who had 21 goals and 32 assists during the season. “We got to get going here.”
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar acknowledged he has thought about splitting up the top line, possibly moving Landeskog down, but he likes the way they have been playing together. He also said he was unlikely to make lineup changes and put in some of the youngsters.
“We’re kind of in this must-win situation,” Bednar said, “and I think my gut will be to rely on our veterans and the guys that got us to this point.”
The Stars have won five straight games this postseason, including Game 6 against Calgary in which they trialed 3-0 before scoring seven straight to finish off the Flames, and Game 2 against the Avalanche when Dallas scored five straight after trailing 2-0.
'It’s just one of the things that happens in games," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “Obviously, we don’t want to be coming from behind every game. But, we’ve got a resilient group that digs in when we’re down, and come together. You know, it’s just one of those things we keep playing our game, good things happen.”
With back-to-back shutouts by Varlamov — Game 6 of first round against Washington and Game 1 of conference semifinals against Philadelphia — the Islanders' goalie has not allowed a goal in 136 minutes, 20 seconds. That's the second-longest streak in franchise postseason history, trailing Billy Smith's mark by 39 seconds.
“At this point it's not about shutouts, it's playoff hockey," Varlamov said. "So for me, the most important thing is to get the win and then get ready for the next game.”
This is the 10th time since moving to Dallas before the 1993-94 season that the Stars have opened a playoff series 2-0. They have won the previous nine, all in six games or less (two sweeps, two in five games and five in six games).
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.
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