Takeaways from Avalanche’s Game 5 win over Stars: Michael Hutchinson steps up in goal

Facing elimination Monday, the injury-depleted Avalanche scored five first-period goals and went on to a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars to extend the Western Conference semifinal series to Game 6 on Wednesday. Dallas leads 3-2.

Five takeaways from Monday’s big win:

Hutchinson and Hammond. The Avs have a tendency to win while facing elimination and introducing a third-string goalie to the series. On April 20, 2018, goalie Andrew Hammond — a throw-in to the Matt Duchene three-team trade at the beginning of the 2017-18 season — made 44 saves in his club debut in a 2-1 victory in Game 5 at Nashville.

The Predators were trying to clinch the series that night and knew Colorado was without its top two goalies in Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier. A similar scenario was in place Monday in Edmonton, where Michael Hutchinson made his first career NHL playoff start while Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz were on the shelf, and got the win with 31 saves — 17 in the third period. Afterward, Hutchinson said he knows Hammond well but wasn’t aware of his heroics with the Avs two years ago. Hutchinson was with the Winnipeg Jets’ organization at the time, mostly playing for the Manitoba Moose. Hammond also started Game 6 against Nashville in 2018, but the Avs lost 5-0.

The future looks bright. Forward Logan O’Connor, playing his third NHL playoff game, has suddenly become a primary penalty killer and looks terrific in a bottom-six role with his elite speed. O’Connor is replacing the injured Matt Calvert. And defenseman Conor Timmins, who like O’Connor also played most of the year for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles in Loveland, stepped in Monday and logged 14:44 — four minutes more than Nikita Zadorov.

Afterward, Avs coach Jared Bednar had great things to say about O’Connor and Timmins, who should be full-time Avs next season. And remember, 2019 first-round draft pick Bo Byram — the NHL’s top prospect, according to The Hockey News — is also in the Edmonton bubble and getting valuable day-to-day experience with the team.

Stat of the season. Even without a handful of its best players, the Avalanche can present a lethal offensive attack. In the first period Monday, the Avs set club records in goals (five) and shots (23) in a playoff period, and the four goals in 2:36 was one second shy of the NHL’s all-time playoff record, set by the Montreal Canadiens in 1944. Typically, so many goals in such little time stem from multiple tallies on the power play, but all five goals were at even-strength Monday.

Powerless. The Avs had plenty of time to score a power-play goal — they had the man-advantage for a whopping 9:24 — but they finished 0-of-6. They didn’t need the power play to produce in Game 5, but in the next game they’ll have to be better to avoid elimination. The positive thing is, Colorado has extraordinary confidence with its power play, particularly the first unit, and the Avs won’t enter Game 6 doubting they can produce.

Individual sacrifice. The Avalanche was on the right side of blocked shots — stepping into 24 of them while the Stars had just eight. Blocking shots stems from the willingness to put your body on the line. There are so many gaps between padding, the risk of injury or severe temporary pain is high. But players do it for the team, often in desperation, and it reflects their commitment to winning.