Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon drops ‘better team’ take after saving season vs. Stars

The Avs are still alive.

Nathan MacKinnon in image looking stern, Colorado Avalanche logo, hockey rink in background

The Colorado Avalanche stayed alive for at least another 48 hours after a critical 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of their Western Conference second-round series at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night.

With their season on the line, superstar defenseman Cale Makar stepped up and scored two goals — including the game winner — Alexandar Georgiev made 23 saves, and the 2022 Stanley Cup champions made sure there would be a Game 6 back at Ball Arena on Friday.

And Nathan MacKinnon, who has also been quiet in the series but was terrific in Game 4, has faith that his club can come all the way back.

“I think after getting dominated in Game 4, we needed to build our game back up and get some confidence,” MacKinnon said after the victory, per The Athletics’s Pierre LeBrun. “Game 1 feels like an eternity ago. It was nice to feel like we were the better team. We didn’t just win. I felt like we were the better team. Definitely happy with the effort.”

MacKinnon bounced back from a tough Game 4 performance, scoring the key insurance marker late in the third period and adding an assist in the triumph. But the Hart Trophy finalist knows his team has a long way to go to win the series.

“We know how it felt after we lost to St. Louis when we were up 3-1. Felt like the world was ending,” he explained, per Mile High Sports’ Aarif Deen. “Same thing against Tampa in the finals. It’s a lot. Obviously we won Game 6’s, but it doesn’t feel great when you let a team back in so our job is to put a little pressure on them.”

Two postseasons ago, the Avalanche led both the Blues and Lightning 3-1 en route to the franchise’s third championship, but lost Game 5 in both the second-round and Stanley Cup Final, respectively. They would end up closing out both series in Game 6, and the goal is to ensure the reverse of that doesn’t happen on home ice on Friday.

“I feel during the regular season, and even in this playoffs, we’ve been finding good ways to come back and win games when we’re down in the game,” Georgiev said after making a couple of key stops in Game 5. “So I felt confident in our group.”

“I think the guys had a really good mentality. We had a good mentality coming into today,” echoed Makar after his terrific performance, per NHL.com’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika. “We’ve got to hopefully continue that and even excel more with it going into a home game next.”

Avalanche can force a winner-take-all Game 7 vs. Stars

The Colorado Avalanche celebrate defeating the Dallas Stars in game five of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center.Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Avalanche are still in a hole in the series, and will need to prevail on home ice to even get an opportunity to play in a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Dallas.

But after being upset by the Seattle Kraken in Round 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team is hungry to return to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three seasons.

“Obviously, it’s tough,” Makar said of the Avalanche being down to their last loss. “You’re playing desperate hockey now. Everybody’s got to play on the edge. You’ve got to fight for every single chance you get now, being elimination games.”

Colorado needed more from Makar in Game 5 after he had gone three games in a row without a point — the first time it had ever happened in his 70-game NHL playoff career, per Cotsonika.

In Game 5, he looked a lot more like the player that won the 2022 Conn Smythe trophy as the postseason MVP, and the Avalanche are going to need that again on Friday night as they look to extend the series.

Colorado hasn’t yet won a game at Ball Arena in Round 2, and either that’s going to change, or Dallas will be advancing in the Mile High City this weekend.

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