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Avalanche looking for answers out west

The Assocated Press

Nathan MacKinnon saw a team that just couldn’t get up the ice with its customary speed. Couldn’t generate quality scoring chances. Couldn’t get in a flow.

That wasn’t them.

“We were bad,” the Colorado forward acknowledged after a 4-1 loss to St. Louis that tied the second-round series at a game apiece. “Really bad.”

The Blues made all the right moves — from shuffling their lines to generate more offense to finding a way to clog up the middle and frustrate the Avalanche’s fast flyers.

It’s now Colorado’s move in this high stakes game of chess on ice, with the series shifting to St. Louis for Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m., TNT).

Everything’s on the table, too, for the top seed in the West. That includes line changes and possibly swapping out players.

“You’re not going to win in the playoffs if you don’t bring your best game,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Friday after practice. “We weren’t even close last night and it’s on us. …. Our best game is to be determined. We’re always in search of the perfect game.”

First order of business: Finding a way to create more space for MacKinnon and defenseman Cale Makar to maneuver. The Blues made it awfully difficult for them through the neutral zone in Game 2.

Makar has yet to register a point after a three-goal, seven-assist series in a first-round sweep of Nashville.

There’s also the curious case of Mikko Rantanen, who led the team in points during the regular season but has yet to score in these playoffs (he does have seven assists).

“Do you think Mikko is playing his best hockey that you’ve seen him play?” Bednar quizzed. “We need him to be an impact player.”

The Avalanche potentially could shake things up, possibly insert players like forwards Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor into the lineup.

Or they may just shuffle their lines similar to the way the Blues did before Game 2. St. Louis got instant results by pairing David Perron (two goals) with Pavel Buchnevich (two assists) and Ryan O’Reilly (one assist).

Rangers down 2-0

RALEIGH, N.C. — Brendan Smith scored a shorthanded goal late in the second period while Antti Raanta finished with 21 saves to help the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 2-0 on Friday night, taking a 2-0 lead in their second-round playoff series.

Smith’s goal off a feed from Sebastian Aho marked his first postseason goal in nine years, and it was the difference in a tightly defended game by both teams with little space to operate and even fewer traffic-free looks at the net.

Aho added a clinching empty-net score to finish this off with 1.8 seconds left as Raanta held up.

The Hurricanes had flirted with tallying a short-handed goal earlier in the game multiple times, including once when Teuvo Teravainen pinged the right post in the first period from the slot off a feed from Aho. It ended up foreshadowing the Hurricanes’ breakthrough score, with Aho skating in on the right side to set up Smith for a one-timer from the left that cleanly zipped past Igor Shesterkin for the putaway with 4:06 left in the second.

Carolina improved to 6-0 at home in the playoffs and has a 2-0 lead for the second straight round. Now they face the challenge of winning on the road for the first time in the postseason after claiming a seven-game first-round series against Boston in which no team managed a road win.

Dallas needs a coach

Rick Bowness will not return as head coach of the Dallas Stars after nearly three seasons in which he led them to the Stanley Cup Final and the playoffs again this season.

While Bowness was not under contract past this season, the 67-year-old coach said in a statement released by the team Friday that he was stepping away to “allow the organization the opportunity to pursue a different direction.”

Rick Bowness has been on an NHL bench for a record 2,562 regular-season games as a head coach or an assistant over nearly four decades.

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