Confident Stars, Avs sorting through goalie plans for Game 6

September 1

Dallas remains one victory away from its first berth in a conference finals in more than a decade, so there’s no finger-pointing among the Stars after failing to take advantage of their first opportunity to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche from the NHL playoffs.

Goaltender Ben Bishop would be an easy target after a blowout loss in Game 5 of the best-of-seven, second-round series that continues Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) with the Stars holding a 3-2 lead.

Too easy, Stars coach Rick Bowness said after watching his team yield five first-period goals — four by Bishop — during a 6-3 loss on Monday night.

“If you’re pointing fingers at Ben Bishop, you’re pointing fingers in the wrong directions,” Bowness said. “None of us were ready to go. ... First finger-point at me, and then work your way down. Ben Bishop is not near the top.”

Bishop, who had not played since Aug. 13, was a surprise Game 5 starter after being deemed unfit to play earlier in the day.

And while, he claimed responsibility for the poor performance, teammates insisted it wasn’t the goalie’s fault because they played poorly in front of him.

Bishop was pulled late in the opening period, leaving Anton Khudobin to finish up instead of getting an expected day off after winning Game 4 the previous night.

“This has nothing to do with our goalies,” Stars forward Andrew Cogliano said.

“I think Bish is the best goalie in the league when he’s playing at the top of his game, and we have full confidence in him,” Cogliano added. “Our first 10 minutes was an absolute joke. ... He’ll put it on himself, but let’s be honest, we were atrocious in the first 10 minutes.”

Bowness said Tuesday he had not made a decision about which goaltender will start Game 6.

The coach did, however, defend going with Bishop on Monday night, even though the team’s regular starter didn’t participate in the morning skate earlier in the day.

“When your No. 1 goalie comes to you and says he feels good and he’s ready to play,” Bowness said, “it makes it an easy decision.”

Meanwhile, Colorado coach Jared Bednar also declined to name a starting goalie for Wednesday night.

With Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz sidelined by injury, Michael Hutchinson made his first career NHL playoff start for the Avalanche in Game 5. He finished with 31 saves, becoming the third goaltender to win a game for Colorado this postseason.

While Bednar would not discuss his plans for Game 6, he did confirm Grubauer is not an option for Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the coach said he wasn’t surprised by how well Hutchinson played on Monday.

“I have confidence in Hutch. He’s an experienced goalie. He’s been around. He’s got something to prove. He’s been working real hard. He’s an unbelievable person. Makes it easy to cheer for,” Bednar said.

“It makes it easy for our guys to play in front of him,’’ the coach added, “and I was kind of expecting the performance we got to be honest, and hoping he can repeat it a few more times.”

The Stars are confident they’ll fix their mistakes and play better in front of their goaltender, too, whether it’s Bishop or Khudobin.

“We’ll look at that and try to correct it, but then you flush it,” Cogliano said. “It’s a series, we’re up 3-2, and that’s all that matters right now.”


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