Avalanche’s Jared Bednar: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen “got to go to work”

DALLAS – Peter DeBoer called out some of his top players after Game 1 of this series.

It was Jared Bednar’s turn after Game 2.

Bednar was quite unhappy with how the second period played out Thursday night at American Airlines Center. The Dallas Stars stretched their lead from one goal to four, and the Avalanche did plenty to help them out.

Colorado’s coach was also not happy with how his top line was playing. He moved Valeri Nichushkin off it during the second period, and replaced him with Zach Parise. Artturi Lehkonen got some shifts next to Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen as well.

After the game, Bednar had some critiques for his two world-class forwards.

“Well, they’ve got to go to work,” Bednar said when asked what more he needs to see from the top line. “I thought they were frustrated. They were the guys who got frustrated the quickest and the longest. They’re going to get keyed on this time of year. They have the ability to win games for us if they stick with it and are resilient and play the right way like they have all year. Tonight in the second period, they didn’t.

“They got frustrated. I was looking for anyone that might be able to give them a spark and help them kind of get their game going, but they’re also partly responsible for that. They have to take it upon themselves to make sure their game is right and in order, probably longer than anybody else because they play the most minutes.”

MacKinnon’s line dominated at even strength in Game 1, including his game-tying goal, and Colorado’s power play scored twice. When DeBoer assessed the game afterwards, he noted the Avs’ big guns were all over the scoresheet and the Stars needed more from some of their top scorers.

The roles were reversed in Game 2.

MacKinnon, Rantanen and Cale Makar did not register a point in a Stanley Cup Playoffs game for only the third time since they’ve been together, according to NHL Network researcher Adam Vingan. The other two were Game 6 against St. Louis in 2022 and Game 4 against Vegas in 2021.

Beyond the production, the underlying numbers for MacKinnon and Rantanen were rough. Neither of them had a shot on goal at 5-on-5 (Nichushkin only had one).

The Avs had four shots on goal as a team and generated 0.47 expected goals with MacKinnon on the ice at 5-on-5. That was the fewest on-ice shots on goal in a game where he logged at least 12 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time since Game 6 against Minnesota in 2014, and the expected goals was the fewest since Game 3 against Vegas in 2021.

It was only the fourth time in MacKinnon’s career that he’s had zero shots on goal at 5-on-5 in a playoff game. The others were Game 6 in Seattle last year, Game 1 against Arizona in 2020 and Game 4 against Minnesota in 2014. This was the first time for Rantanen since the clinching game against Tampa Bay in 2022.

“When you go no shots, in a playoff game or any game, there’s lots of things you can do better,” Bednar said. “It starts with being a connected group as a forward line and working with one another. I felt like they were isolated a lot last night for me.”

MacKinnon has been a dominant force all season. He was against Winnipeg in the first round. He was in Game 1 against the Stars, although he and his linemates had less success when Dallas defenseman Chris Tanev was on the ice.

Tanev is one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. He was Dallas’ marquee trade deadline addition. DeBoer has been trying to play Tanev and his partner, Esa Lindell, as much as possible against the MacKinnon line. Dallas won that battle in Game 2.

Now the series shifts to Denver, and Bednar will have the ability to keep MacKinnon’s line away from the Lindell-Tanev pairing, given the Avs will have the last change before every faceoff — if he wants to.

“We always think about them, but we generally don’t run from any matchup,” Bednar said. “We’ll deploy our guys pretty close to the way we always do, but we will move guys around a little bit, depending on situations, time and score of the game, where the faceoffs are, etc. So we’ll evaluate that. Now we’ve got two games of data to look at and kind of make some decisions from there.

“But regardless of who Nate’s playing against, I think that that line can be better than they were tonight. We’ve yet to see that line’s best in this series. Hopefully going home, they’ll bring it to the best of their ability.”

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