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3 Takeaways From Avalanche Game 4 Loss – Hockey Writers – Colorado Avalanche

Monday was a rough day for the Colorado Avalanche. They found out their two best players couldn't suit up for their all-important Game 4 right before the puck dropped. The Avs were quickly shut out 5-1 by the Dallas Stars – who took a 3-1 lead in the second-round playoff series.

The Avalanche learned they would be without Valeri Nichushkin and Devon Toews shortly before the game began. Nichushkin will be suspended for at least six months as he has been placed in category 3 of the league's Player Assistance Program. Toews was a game time player due to illness. Here are three takeaways from the loss that put the Avalanche on the brink of elimination.

Georgiev Gets No Support

For the second game in a row, Avalanche goaltender Alexander Georgiev looked sharp, and lost again. Georgiev stopped 29 shots in the loss. After leading the NHL with 38 wins, he struggled to find support as Colorado moved just one loss away from elimination. He was sharp every time he was on the ice Monday — except when he missed Miro Heiskanen's long shot for Dallas' third goal of the game.

Alexander Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Georgiev was the only reason the Avalanche were undefeated away from home in the first half. The Stars outshot Colorado 16-2 in the first 20 minutes, but Dallas took a 1-0 lead at the end of the first. Georgiev was huge during the Stars' power play, making four impressive saves during a tense penalty kill. Dallas' first-period goal was hard to pin down on Georgiev, as Wyatt Johnston capitalized on a Cale Makar miscue in the back of the Avalanche net to open the scoring on a short count.

Related: Avalanche Must Fix Goaltending Before Sinking Title Chances

Many of Georgiev's woes came from the other end of the ice, as Dallas netminder Jake Oettinger was excellent. Oettinger stopped 24 shots on Monday after turning away 28 shots in the Stars' third straight win. He got a big assist — Johnston's short-handed goal on Monday — but continues to block one of the NHL's most dangerous teams on the board. Georgiev's consistency at the end of the regular season and a difficult first playoff game raised questions early in the playoffs, but he has been consistent throughout the postseason. It's a matter of the Avs' offense settling for Oettinger if they want to come back in this series.

Nichushkin Out of Playoffs Again

Just before the game started, news broke that Nichushkin had been placed in the 3rd tier of the league's Player Assistance Program. Some programs he completed through the Player Assistance Program earlier this season, from January to March. Although the specifics of the stages are often not disclosed to the public because they vary from person to person, Stage 3 usually involves a player who has completed initial treatment and needs additional support or supervision.

It's been a rough 12 months for Nichushkin. In the first round of the playoffs last season, he appeared in just two games before leaving the team for personal reasons. This followed a strange incident just hours before the start of Colorado's Game 3 against the Seattle Kraken. This is Nichushkin's fifth season with the Avs, and he's enjoyed a career resurgence with two 25-goal campaigns in the last three seasons. His 28 goals and 53 points in the regular season were career highs despite Nichushkin playing in only 54 games.

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Entry into Category 3 carries a penalty of suspension of at least six months without pay. After that time, he can apply for reinstatement. From a hockey perspective, it's a crippling blow to the Avalanche. Nichushkin was the NHL's leading scorer in nine playoffs. He has scored in seven of the eight games he has played. He was removed from the starting lineup for Monday's game and replaced by Artturi Lehkonen.

Drouin Delivers on Avs Playoff Debut

There wasn't much for Avalanche fans to be excited about on Monday, but one of the best stories of the regular season came in the playoffs. Jonathan Drouin had a breakout year in his first season with the Avs but was unable to play in the postseason after suffering a hamstring injury in the team's final regular season game. He played in the playoffs for the first time Monday and provided a big assist on Colorado's only goal while logging nearly 20 minutes of ice time.

Monday's game wasn't just his first playoff action of the season; it's also Drouin's first postseason appearance since the 2020 playoffs while with the Montreal Canadiens. His return was important for the Avalanche, especially after the Nichushkin news broke. Drouin was lined up on the second line with Casey Mittelstadt and Zach Parise, and they all worked to get the Avs to score. Parise started the case with a blistered foreskin. The puck worked its way to Drouin behind the net, and he slid it to Mittelstadt for the goal.

Related: Jonathan Drouin Arriving at the Right Time for the Avalanche

Drouin's return could help, but it may be too little, too late for the Avalanche. Missing the pitcher for all of the playoffs through Monday was an unexpected setback, as he played in 79 of 82 regular season games. He also had a career-best 37 assists and 56 points this season. Colorado will need deep scoring to come back, but it will also need its superstars to contribute. Game 5 is Wednesday in Dallas.

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