Stars take blame after Bishop struggles in goal

The Dallas Stars emphatically defended goalie Ben Bishop, whose disastrous first period led to a 6-3 win for the Colorado Avalanche as they avoided elimination in Game 5 on Monday in Edmonton.

Bishop, the team’s starting goaltender in the regular season, made his first start for the Stars in 18 days, after being unfit to play since Game 2 of the quarterfinal series against Calgary. Bishop replaced Anton Khudobin, who won six of his past seven starts, including Game 4 on Sunday.

What was supposed to be a night off for Khudobin saw him enter the game in the first period — after Bishop gave up four goals on 19 shots in 13:43 of ice time before he was pulled.

“I had an opportunity tonight to close the door,” Bishop said. “I know they’re going to have a push. Their season is on the line. I’ll take blame. I have to be better. The guys have been fighting hard all series. You gotta come up with a save there.”

His teammate Andrew Cogliano was seated near Bishop during his postgame comments and made it clear that the Stars are the ones to take the blame, rather than their goaltender.

“I think Bish is the best goalie in the league when he’s playing at the top of his game,” Cogliano said. “We have full confidence in him. Our first 10 minutes were an absolute joke. Bish will take the blame, he’ll put it on himself, but let’s be honest: We were atrocious in the first 10 minutes. It was 5-0 with four minutes left in the period. This has nothing to do with our goalies. We’re wasting our time if we’re talking about our goalies. We have the luxury of having these two, and we let him down.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare got the scoring going at 4:37 of the first period. Andre Burakovsky made it 2-0 at 11:51. It was Nathan MacKinnon next, at 12:32 for a 3-0 lead, followed by Nazem Kadri at 13:43. That chased Bishop, and Khudobin entered the game, only to give up Colorado’s fifth goal of the period when Mikko Rantanen scored at 14:27.

“We started pretty well,” Bellemare said. “We decided to show the best version of ourselves tonight.”

The Avalanche outshot the Stars 23-5 in the first period. Their tally of four goals in a 2:36 span was just one second away from a Stanley Cup playoff record set by the Montreal Canadiens in 1944.

Burakovsky said the Avalanche knew what they had to do when Bishop was the surprise starter: If a goalie hasn’t played since Aug. 13, they need to pepper him with shots on goal. “It was a tough start for him to not play for a while and face that many shots,” Burakovsky said.

Bishop skated Sunday, and coach Rick Bowness said he looked good in his practices. Bishop was cleared to return, and Bowness decided to use him for the Stars’ second game in two days. The Stars informed Bishop early Monday afternoon that he would be in net.

“Based on the information we have that you do not have, the best decision at the time was to go with Bish,” Bowness said.

How did Bishop look?

“It looked like it was unfair what was going on in front of him. Did he look fine? Yeah. He looked sharp. On some of those goals, we just let guys walk in and tap it in,” Bowness said. “Hey, listen: If you’re pointing fingers at Ben Bishop, you’re pointing fingers in the wrong direction. None of us were ready to go tonight. The first finger is pointed at me, and then work your way down. Ben Bishop is not near the top.”

The Stars weren’t the only ones making goalie news in Game 5. The Avalanche started their third-stringer, Michael Hutchinson, after Game 4 starter Pavel Francouz was unfit to play. Starter Philipp Grubauer was out because of an injury. Hutchinson stopped 31 shots in the win, including 17 of 18 in the third period.

“It was exciting. I’ve had a very long career so far, and this was my first playoff start. It’s what you work for when you were a kid, dreaming in your backyard about playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs,” said Hutchinson, who played for four teams in seven NHL seasons before getting his first postseason win. He played 9:21 in relief in Game 4.

Coach Jared Bednar said he was happy for Hutchinson.

“Since we got him, he’s just went about his business,” Bednar said. “He’s a real quiet guy in the locker room, just a great human being. Talking to him last night, telling him he was going to start, I just wanted him to be relax. Go be himself. Have a fun night. Have a good night. He didn’t get a lot of work early, but he certainly did as the game went on. We were confident coming in that if we played the way we can play that Hutch could have a night for us.”

Game 6 between the Avalanche and Stars, who hold a 3-2 series lead, is scheduled for Wednesday, with both teams facing questions in goal.

Bowness said the Stars hadn’t considered who might have the crease with another chance to knock out the Avs. “This game was so bad … we’ve got a lot to digest here before we get to that point,” he said.

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