DENVER -- Wyatt Johnston had two goals and an assist, and the Dallas Stars pushed the Colorado Avalanche to the brink with a 5-1 win in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round at Ball Arena on Monday.

The Stars have won three straight in the best-of-7 series. Game 5 will be in Dallas on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS).

"It’s good, but we also know the final one is always the toughest to win, and we also know the opponent," Dallas coach Pete DeBoer said. "There’s no doubt with what went on behind the scenes with them tonight, they were a little bit off and a little bit rattled,. I’m sure they’ll regroup and I’m sure they’re not going to go down quietly. We’re going to anticipate that the next game is going to be the toughest to win.”

DAL@COL R2, Gm4: Johnston zips in PPG for his second of the game

Prior to the game, Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin was placed in Stage 3 of the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. Under the terms of the program, Nichushkin will be suspended without pay for a minimum of six months and then will be eligible to apply for reinstatement.

“Val is obviously struggling with something," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "I have two thoughts. Yeah, it [stinks] for our team. It hurts our team, there's no question. He's a great player.

“I've gotten to know Val as a person and I’ve gotten to know him as one of our teammates, and I want what’s best for him. I want him to be happy and I want him to be content in his life, whether that is with our team or not with our team. I want the best for him and his family. I think all of our guys are the same. We hope that he can find some peace and get help. That’s the other side of it. Hockey is not life and death, even though we treat it like it is. Val is a big priority, and our team is another one. Now they are separated. They’re not together.”

Miro Heiskanen had a goal and two assists, Sam Steel had a goal and an assist, and Jason Robertson had two assists for the Stars, who are the No. 1 seed from the Central Division. Jake Oettinger made 24 saves.

“We know they're a fast team. We know what we have to do. Everyone in our dressing room knows how to play the right way, and the right way is successful for us these whole playoffs,” Robertson said. “And I think it's just contagious on our bench. I think one guy sees it, another guy sees it, and you just get rolling and rolling. And it's great to see, like I said, how contagious it is whenever we do everything the right way. Good things happen.”

Casey Mittelstadt scored, and Alexandar Georgiev made 29 saves for the Avalanche, who are the No. 3 seed from the Central.

“We looked frozen in the first period," Bednar said. "We were not moving, we were not skating. It looked like we were exhausted and we should be the rested team. I thought we got better in the second, but it was still a struggle. Slow pace, slow thinking, lack of execution. I didn't feel like the guys were not trying, but just everything felt like it was a struggle tonight.

“Tonight we were atrocious.”

Johnston gave Dallas a 1-0 lead with a short-handed goal at 15:37 of the first period. After he forced a turnover by Cale Makar along the goal line, Johnston jammed in his third chance from the edge of the crease.

Johnston then scored a power-play goal to extend the lead to 2-0 at 5:46 of the second period. He took a slap pass from Robertson below the left circle and scored with a one-timer that deflected in off the side of Georgiev.

“It's been a crazy, crazy couple of years," said Johnston, who turns 21 on Thursday. "I don't think if you were telling me I'd be in [this] position, playing in the NHL playoffs for the Stars, if you were to tell me that, I guess when was that, 2020 and COVID, I don't know if I'd believe you. It's been a pretty cool a couple of years, and I'm just really thankful and just so happy to have met some amazing people on the way and just have a chance to be with the Stars.”

Heiskanen made it 3-0 at 11:24 with a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that went in off the right shoulder of Georgiev.

“We wanted to take control and have a great start," Heiskanen said. "I think we played a great first period, and I think second was pretty good too. We defended really well there. It was, I think, a good game overall. We have to keep doing that.”

Mittelstadt cut the lead to 3-1 at 12:35, curling the puck out from behind the net and beating Oettinger to the far side under his glove.

“I don’t think we were playing our game. We’re complicating our plays,” Avalanche forward Jonathan Drouin said. “We can't win two in the next game on Wednesday, so you know, it’s about [winning] one game and [making] sure we're focused for Wednesday. We beat them there this year. We beat them in the playoffs (in Game 1). So we have confidence in that, but we have to simplify our game a little bit.”

Evgenii Dadonov made it 4-1 at 9:27 of the third period. Mason Marchment located the rebound of Heiskanen’s point shot and kicked the puck over to Dadonov for a shot from the edge of the crease.

Steel scored into an empty net at 18:10 for the 5-1 final.

“We got a group in there that doesn’t want to cheat each other,” DeBoer said. “I mean, Wyatt Johnston has a chance at a hat trick with the empty net and passes off to Sam Steel so Sam Steel can get a goal. You know, when you have those type of unselfish things going on in your group, it’s really contagious. I’m just really proud of our approach.”

NOTES: Stars forward Roope Hintz left the game late in the first period because of an upper-body injury after blocking a shot. There was no update. ... Johnston has 11 career postseason goals. He is the eighth player in NHL history to score at least 10 playoff goals prior to the age of 21, joining Jaromir Jagr (14), Jordan Staal (13), Jeremy Roenick (12), Brent Sutter (12), Wendel Clark (11), Dan Quinn (11) and Claude Lemieux (10). ... Drouin returned after missing Colorado's first eight playoff games because of a lower-body injury. He had one assist and was minus-2 in 19:12 of ice time.

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