DENVER — No matter how many years you’re a part of this — how many times you lose in the postseason, the sudden shock of being eliminated never gets easy. Not for the players, not for the coaching staff.

“It’s the worst press conference of the year every year,” head coach Jared Bednar said, speaking to the media following the Avalanche’s 2-1 double overtime loss in Game 6 late Friday night. “You put so much into a season as a group and you come up short. It’s never a good feeling.”

The Avalanche scored first and held the lead through two periods. But an early third-period tally tied things up and set up an epic double oT between two of the NHL’s powerhouse clubs. The hero emerged for Dallas 31:42 into OT. And it was none other than former Av Matt Duchene, sending Dallas to the Western Conference Final after going 3-0 at Ball Arena in the series.

Once a promising young talent on the Avs, Duchene, who was eliminated in the first round by Colorado in the 2022 championship year, finally got one over his former team at 33 years old. He’ll play in the third round for the first time in his career.

But for the Avs, 2024 feels like a blown opportunity — one that got away given the talent on this team and the pieces added at the trade deadline.

“We had a team that we thought could win, we believed we could win,” veteran defenseman Jack Johnson said. “It’s hard to win the Cup. We know that, having gone through it.”

Mikko Rantanen had the only goal for Colorado, which came early in the second period on the power play. The Avs had the upper hand in the opening frame and carried their late-first-period momentum into the second. Moments before Duchene was called for cross-checking, Stars goalie Jake Oettinger robbed Jonathan Drouin on a rebound.

It seemed like the Avs would have a tough time getting one past him. But then the power play got to work.

The Avs sent the top unit out to start the man advantage. After losing the faceoff in the offensive zone, Dallas eventually got the puck out. Center Wyatt Johnston, who scored a shorthanded goal in Game 4, possessed the puck and skated in circles around the Avs zone to kill valuable time off the clock.

But Cale Makar had enough.

Colorado’s star defenseman leveled Johnston and sent the breakout the other way. The top unit got set up and a Drouin pass to Rantanen down low ended up in the back of the net. Rantanen had a clear shot from his off-wing and sent the puck above the shoulder of Oettinger to open the scoring.

It was just one of three shots the Avs had in the period despite having more high-danger opportunities.

Everything seemed like it was tilting in their favor. But as the game went on. Dallas began to come on stronger. Colorado needed an extra goal — a cushion through 40 minutes — to really get a chance to force Game 7. But Oettinger would not have it. He was excellent at 5-on-5 both in regulation and OT.

Dallas came out flying in the third period and tied it up off a goal from Jamie Benn. Like Duchene, Benn is also a public enemy at Ball Arena for the hit he threw on Devon Toews in Game 2. His goal was the only one either team scored for more than 50 minutes of gameplay.

“We’re playing the best in Dallas,” forward Andrew Cogliano said postgame. “We felt if we could get by them, we’d feel good about ourselves heading into the next series.”

Like Oettinger, Alexandar Georgiev was incredible for the Avs in goal. Colorado’s netminder made 36 saves as the Avs were outshot 38-30. In the first OT, Georgiev stopped all 11 shots he faced. The Avalanche only mustered five on Oettinger going the other way.

Each team had just one power play in more than 90 minutes of play. The Avs killed off Dallas’ only opportunity later in the second period.

It’s unclear where the Avs go from here. They’ll have a long summer ahead filled with signings, cap management, and most of all, uncertainty. Captain Gabriel Landeskog is still hoping to return after missing two full seasons. Bednar said he’s optimistic that Landeskog could return next year but confirmed he was not close to returning during this playoff run.

And the giant elephant in the room — the status of Valeri Nichushkin — might also hinder the Avalanche’s ability to fill out their roster in free agency. Nichushkin is serving a six-month suspension which began on Monday after being placed in Stage 3 of the NHL’s Player Assistance Program.

All things considered, general manager Chris MacFarland will have his work cut out for him.

But one thing is for certain, with the core this team has, the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup window is still very much open. It’s just a matter of filling in the right pieces to supplement the top stars.