Chambers: Nazem Kadri’s turnover was bad. The Avalanche’s injuries and special teams were worse

It was the game’s worst turnover, and it came at the worst possible time.

Nazem Kadri lost possession and skated over the puck at the Avalanche’s blue line, right in front of the Colorado bench, and the Dallas Stars were prepared to pounce late in Game 7 on Friday. They had three players on the Avs’ side of the blue line and a fourth at center ice. They were in a position to forge a 4-on-3 attack at Rogers Place.

Just 10 seconds after the Avs took a 4-3 lead with 3:40 remaining in regulation, Stars rookie Joel Kiviranta scored his second goal of the game to force overtime. And then the Game 7 injury replacement won it with Dallas’ first shot in OT to complete his hat trick, a first for a rookie in a playoff game.

The “first-team-to-five” term Avs coach Jared Bednar used after Game 5 when the winner reached five goals in every game to that point was never the plan. If the typically high-scoring Avalanche was healthy, it could have played that shootout style and downed the Stars.

Shootouts never work when you’re shorthanded and missing so many key players. Maybe the injury-depleted Avs should have played a boring tight-defensive style after gaining three leads in Game 7. They returned from Edmonton on Saturday for a lot of reasons — and playing the wrong style with the players they had available was among them.

Perhaps Kadri doesn’t make that turnover if this series wasn’t so run-and-gun from the get-go.

But in defense of Bednar and the Avs, a team can’t suddenly change how it plays after a full season of preaching and practicing the style it wants to play. This team is trained to play fast and is all about quick and clean defensive-zone exits, flow through the neutral zone and buzzing in the offensive end.

And Kadri’s turnover is exactly what it needs to avoid.

But stuff happens. Hockey will forever have hiccups. And Kadri isn’t why the Avalanche was eliminated.

The real blame is on Colorado’s special teams. Dallas was by far the better team on the power play and penalty kill.

With key primary penalty killers Erik Johnson and Matt Calvert on Colorado’s seven-man injured list, Dallas went a sizzling 39% on the power play in the series (9-for-23). The Stars were 2-of-2 in Game 7.

There are no excuses as to why the Avs’ power play was mostly ineffective, finishing just 4-for-32 in the series including 1-for-15 in the last three games. Their stacked first unit was intact until Gabe Landeskog was scratched for Game 7. Colorado’s best offensive players weren’t good enough and/or Dallas’ penalty killers were really good.

So don’t blame Kadri. Blame the injuries, special teams, or the Game 7 curse. The Avs have now lost five consecutive Game 7s since 2002 when it lost 7-0 in Game 7 at Detroit in the conference finals.

Calvert didn’t finish the playoffs with the Avs for the second straight year, and Johnson and Colorado’s top-two goalies were unavailable at the end for the second time in three years.

Kadri played all seven games in the Dallas series, producing three goals and seven points. He is tied for fourth in NHL playoff scoring with 18 points. Kadri’s four combined penalties in Games 4 and 5 didn’t help the Avs’ cause and his Game 7 turnover might have ultimately cost his team the series.

But thanks to Kadri and the other key players in the lineup, the Avs were still in a position to win.