The Flames continued their climb up the Western Conference standings last night in a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars that was pretty darn close to the definition of "lucky." After a dominant first period in which the home side took the lead, they fell behind in the second before scoring three times on goals from unlikely sources.
The Flames came out with a vengeance in the opening frame. Olli Jokinen tipped in a Mark Giordano shot just over four minutes into the period to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. They sustained the pressure for the remainder of the period, out-shooting the Stars 16-3 and out-chancing them 8-3, and it looked like Lehtonen might be the hero on this night for the Stars, as the Flames had just one goal on the board after twenty minutes of dominance.
Mike Ribeiro evened things from an improbable angle 7:21 into a middle frame dominated by Dallas before the Stars took a 2-1 lead on a Jamie Langenbrunner marker just after a powerplay expired. The Stars would out-shoot their hosts 10-5 in the second period and out-chance them 8-4, but Calgary emerged from the first forty minutes tied thanks to Tom Kostopoulos' first goal since returning from his six-game suspension, a powerplay marker at 14:09.
The final frame was where the Flames took control; Cory Sarich accepted a feed from Mikael Backlund and scored to give the Flames back the lead just 2: 35 into the third period before Steve Staios of all people converted a shorthanded chance with Jay Bouwmeester off for tripping just over two minutes later. The Stars would press for the remainder of the period, but Miikka Kiprusoff made some big saves and the home side managed to remain disciplined. The Flames avoided falling into a defensive shell for the majority of the final frame, and that was probably the difference in this one, as Dallas finished with only a slight edge in shots and chances in the third.
This wasn't necessarily an undeserved victory for the Flames, it just wasn't the full sixty minute game that we've become more accustomed to seeing from them over the course of this streak. They dominated the first period and played the Stars to close to a draw in the final frame, but they let Dallas take over the game in the second period and only really got back into it because of some favourable bounces. The Flames found a way to win the game against a tired and injury-plagued Stars team, and they certainly deserve credit for that.
With the Flames off until the Heritage Classic, it'll be interesting to see how the standings shape up in next few days. Calgary is currently in a five-way tie for fourth place in the West and will no doubt be doing some scoreboard watching with the Kings, Predators, Coyotes, and Sharks all playing tonight and the Ducks, Wild, and Blackhawks playing on Friday.
Every team within striking distance of the Flames has at least two games in hand on them, and they'll need to make the most of those games in order to gain ground in the West. The standings could look very different by Sunday.