Game 7: Avalanche vs. Stars (Series tied 3-3) – 4 p.m. ET, USA Network (livestream): The Colorado Avalanche scored four-plus goals for the fourth straight game as they staved off elimination for the second time this series. Miro Heiskanen opened the scoring late in the first but the Dallas Stars only had the lead for 1:53 as Nikita Zadorov tied things with under a minute to go in the period. The play that provided some breathing room in the third period for the Avs was when Nathan MacKinnon flipped the puck over a diving Esa Lindell and Mikko Rantanen scored to give Colorado a 3-1 lead. MacKinnon added an empty-netter in the closing minutes.
This series was the top scoring regular-season team from the West (Colorado – 3.37 goals/game) against the conference’s top regular-season defense (Dallas – 2.52 goals against/game). It’s been almost all offense thus far and the Avs finding their scoring touch has been a key factor in them winning the last two games.
In Game 5, the Avalanche became the second team in the last nine years to start three different goalies in the same playoff series when Michael Hutchinson made his first career postseason start after Pavel Francouz was deemed unfit to play and did not dress. Now the 30-year-old journeyman goalie looks to be more than just a footnote on another disappointing Colorado playoff run as he can help the Avs complete what would be their first-ever 3-1 series comeback.
Game 7: Golden Knights vs. Canucks (Series tied 3-3) – 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN (livestream): It was the Thatcher Demko Show yet again as the Canucks’ netminder backstopped the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-0 win in Game 6. The 24-year-old goaltender’s play in the series has allowed him to hit numerous marks.
Demko became the third rookie goalie in NHL history to record a shutout that helped his team force a Game 7. His 48 saves in Game 6 are the most by a rookie goalie in a shutout since 1955-56, and that save total tied Ed Belfour (2000 Stanley Cup Final) for fourth-highest among any goalie in a playoff shutout since 1955-56. Only Dominik Hasek (70), Patrick (63), and Craig Anderson (51) stopped more.
He also is the eighth goalie in playoff history to pick up his first two career postseason wins in games with his team facing elimination.
The Canucks have not reached the Western Conference Final since 2011 when they would advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Two chances, two losses. The Vegas Golden Knights don’t want to have flashbacks of last season when they blew a 3-1 First Round series lead to the Sharks. While Vegas has done everything but score the last two games the question facing Peter DeBoer is whether he should go back to Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 7. Fleury has made only three starts, with his last coming in Game 4 of this series.
Game 7 notes:
• The team that scores first wins 74% of the time (132-46)
• Teams that win Games 5 and 6 after trailing a series 3-1 are 29-28
SATURDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 7: Flyers vs. Islanders (Series tied 3-3) – 7:30 p.m. ET (after Kentucky Derby coverage) – NBC (livestream)