After “riding the emotional roller coaster,” former Avs center Matt ...

18 May 2024
Matt Duchene

Of course it came down to the puck on Matt Duchene’s stick.

It figures because of his history in this building and this state.

It figures, too, because he had his fingerprints all over Game 6.

Double overtime. Running on fumes. A week that turned the Avalanche’s season upside down.

It’s been a long time since Duchene played for Colorado at this point (although, fans still boo him at Ball Arena). It’ll be a long time before he forgets this one. He just has to remember exactly what happened, first.

“I don’t even know. I think I ended up on my knees,” said Duchene, who did indeed drop to the ice, make a big heart shape with his arms and then punched through it before getting mobbed by his teammates. “I have no idea, to be honest with you. It’s just elation, right? Hard-fought series. They’re a hell of a team, obviously.

“They were really good the last two games and they pushed us.”

The 33-year-old was the No. 3 overall pick by Colorado in the 2009 draft, then played the first nine years of his career for the Avalanche before he asked to be traded and was eventually dealt for four players and three draft picks in November 2017.

Two times before he slammed home the game-winner from point blank range 91-plus minutes into the night, Duchene nearly helped the Stars to victory.

In the first overtime, he won a faceoff and posted up in front of the net, tussling with Cale Makar. Mason Marchment ripped a shot cleanly past Alexander Georgiev, but Duchene was called for interfering with Georgiev and the call withstood a long review.

“I haven’t seen the replay, really, of the no goal,” Duchene said. “I’ll leave it at that. I think you just stay with it. It can be a little tough to reset after you think it’s over and you hope it’s over. It’s a gut punch a little bit, but that’s what we do.”

Early in the second overtime, Duchene got a walk-in chance on Georgiev but couldn’t find the back of the net as the goaltender splayed out to make a stop.

Then, finally, he put Dallas into the Western Conference Final. He’s rarely been part of a run like this during his 15 seasons.

That’s nine years in Colorado, one-plus in Ottawa, a stretch run in Columbus and four in Nashville before signing with the Stars in the offseason.

“At 33, I think there’s a certain level of appreciation that you have that you wouldn’t have had as a young player,” Duchene said. “… I probably let it stress me out more than it’s been fun at times just because you want it so bad, but I’m starting to relax a little bit more and it’s getting to be a lot of fun as we go on here.”

Now the Stars are into the final four and the veteran center will be a key part of the puzzle as they try to find eight more wins.

“Really happy for ‘Dutchy’. He’s ridden the confidence roller coaster here in the second half (of the season),” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “Some high highs and some low lows. It was probably about as low as he could be after Game 5. That’s why our group is special. I thought they rallied around him and he was maybe our best player tonight.”

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