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Flames vs. Stars: Flames survive third to win 5-3

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The team so famous for third period dominance had to sit back and hold off the Stars' onslaught in one of the most exciting games of the year.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There really are five games left in this season, and the Flames may just need points out of every single one of them. They had a prime opportunity at further distancing themselves from the Kings tonight against the Dallas Stars, whom they last met five days ago in a 4-3 shootout loss featuring a stellar performance by Kari Lehtonen. The circumstances haven’t changed a bit; both teams need in. The Stars boast an absurd 16-14-3 home record, so maybe the Flames could get the win in their barn this time.

The game didn’t begin so well for the Flames. Jason Spezza took the puck in the neutral zone, gained the line, and then ripped the puck right past Jonas Hiller. First shot, first goal. 1-0 Stars, 40 seconds in.

There’s nothing good about letting in the first goal, but at least the mandatory weak goal was already over with.

The Flames responded with some pressure, but Dallas quickly shut that nonsense down and took over. A Tyler Seguin shot hit Hiller’s throat guard, and the goalie had to switch to his retro mask for a little while. It looked very nice and I think Hiller’s a little bit confused over which mask is his starting mask and which one is his backup.

During their extended stay in the Calgary zone, the Stars’ Curtis McKenzie tripped up Raphael Diaz, and the Flames got a chance to get out of the zone with a powerplay. Offensive zone penalties are nice, but the powerplay somehow managed to spend the first 30 seconds in their own zone.

But they redeemed themselves. After an embarrassing beginning to the powerplay, the Flames recovered and put the pressure on Dallas. The Stars wisely chose to double team Johnny Gaudreau on the penalty kill, but forgot about Dennis Wideman. The youngster sent the puck over to the sharp-shooter and the game was tied 1-1.

That goal broke Dennis Wideman’s career high in goals, who now has 14 on the season. Johnny Hockey also moved back into a tie with Filip Forsberg in the rookie scoring race.

Only a minute after the Wideman goal, Lance Bouma was whistled for holding against Jamie Benn. The Flames’ penalty kill was not that good, allowing Dallas pressure from everywhere. The Flames allowed three shots on goal, and only cleared the puck twice during the two minutes. Yeesh.

Momentum had completely switched to Dallas’ side, and they were not intent on letting up. The pressure forced Sean Monahan to clear the puck over the glass, resulting in another two minutes on the penalty kill. This PK was nicer, mostly because unsung hero Matt Stajan is an A+ penalty killer. On one sequence, he cleared the puck, and then raced in on the forecheck to recover it. Remember when he was a regular healthy scratch? Hahahahahahaha.

The penalty parade did not end, as Brett Ritchie got a high stick on Dennis Wideman in the neutral zone. The game was 4-on-4 for 25 seconds, a short period where Dallas was controlling the game. That bled into the Flames’ powerplay, where again they could not get out of their own zone for the early bits. They didn’t do much else when they were in the offensive zone either. They were there, but they didn’t do anything. The PP definitely needs a tune up somehow.

To end the period, the Flames were given one more opportunity on the penalty kill. Michael Ferland high-sticked John Klingberg, and off to the box he went. It didn’t take long for Dallas to work their magic. Wonderkid Tyler Seguin took advantage of Dennis Wideman screening his own goaltender to rip off a shot into the top corner. 2-1 Dallas.

If there’s two things you don’t do, it’s to allow an early goal, and a late goal. The Flames did both of those in the same period. The Stars led shots 10-5 and corsi 27-14 in the period.

The second period started with the Stars commanding the game. Statistically, the second period is to the Stars what the third is to the Flames. Dallas got the puck, and never looked back. There was about a minute of game time where the Stars hemmed the Flames inside the zone. They had enough time to make a line change and keep the puck in the zone because the Flames were so doggone tired. It was pretty much like this for the first half of the period. Everyone owes Jonas Hiller a pizza after the game for his efforts.

The most entertaining part of this period was when Patrik Nemeth turned into a pirate after the puck deflected into his visor. Initially very scary, but he was alright in the end, and we forever have a hilarious picture of the incident.

Thank goodness for our first line, who have been bailing the Flames out time and time again. Being the only line to be able to consistently drive play north, they were the only ones who were able to stop the bleeding. After forcing an offensive zone faceoff, the boys made quick work of the Stars. On a delayed penalty, Kris Russell teed up a shot that rebounded right to Jiri Hudler, who buried the bouncing puck behind a panicked Kari Lehtonen. 2-2 tie.

It was a dumb luck goal, but it changed the Flames’ fortunes completely. After Hudler’s goal, the Flames crawled back into the game, turning the pressure on the Stars this time. During a chaotic series in the Stars’ end, Raphael Diaz received a generous open lane for him to shoot. Instead of sending a wrister into traffic and hoping for the best, the defender showed Monahan-esque patience, drawing Kari Lehtonen way out of position and setting himself up for a perfectly executed wraparound goal. 3-2 Flames.

When will Bob Hartley do the right thing and pair him with TJ Brodie? Probably never, but here’s to hoping.

Were the Flames done yet? Nope, not at all. The aforementioned divine first line once again drove play north and produced. Jiri Hudler dumped the puck into the corner for Sean Monahan. The centreman sent it back out for Hudler, but the puck went through his legs and right onto the stick of Johnny Gaudreau who immediately roofed it. 4-2 Calgary.

That was Gaudreau’s 60th point, which:

  • Put him in the lead for rookie scoring

  • Elevated him to fifth all time on the Flames’ list for points scored by a rookie, passing Joel Otto’s 1985-86 campaign.

The night was over for Let-them-in, and tiny goaltender Jhonas Enroth came into the game. I still think it’s wild that both teams have a Kar(r)i and a J(h)onas at goaltender.

The period ended ugly, as Brett Ritchie came across the middle and earholed Sean Monahan, delivering a nasty headshot. Ritchie was only assessed two minutes for high-sticking (?) on the play, but he probably deserved more. Monahan’s hair was slightly messed up during the play, but he quickly hand-combed it back to its natural, beautiful state.

The period ended with the Flames slightly edging out the Stars in shots 18-16. The Stars still led in corsi, barely beating the Flames 28-26.

If the Flames were that good in the second, how good would they be in the third? As it turns out, not very good. If the Flames dominated the Stars’ period, it would only make sense for the Stars to dominate the Flames’ period. It was pretty much a slaughter.

It didn’t take long for the Stars to get the game back within striking distance. The play began when a Stars player knocked the stick out of Jonas Hiller’s hand. As he struggled to pick it back up, the puck made its way to Jason Demers, who rifled it past a scrambling Hiller. 4-3 Flames.

After this point, it was just pure Dallas domination. Maybe the Flames were turtling and trying to protect their lead instead of playing normal hockey, but it was more likely that they were overpowered by a Dallas team that is probably one of the most front-loaded in hockey. The Flames game plan for the third period was to play defence for a minute, grab the puck off a turnover, and then float in the neutral zone until they can safely dump it in and change while forcing Dallas to bleed precious seconds from the clock. If they were ambitious enough, they would try and shoot.

The hero of the last game against the Stars nearly became the goat for this game. Deryk Engelland was given a holding the stick call about halfway through the third. Thankfully, the penalty kill rose to the situation and kept Dallas away from the net. I’m sure most of you reading this did not have any nails left after this penalty kill.

The Stars were determined to get that final goal. There was rarely a second spent in the Dallas zone. They simply could not overcome Jonas Hiller and the Flames’ shot blockers, who recorded 32 blocked shots tonight. I know I criticize shot blocking a lot, but that’s nothing to scoff at. Given the situation, it was actually somehow comforting to see the Flames dive in front of a shot rather than the shot even getting a chance to be close to Hiller. Johnny Gaudreau even got in on the block party, stepping in front of a Tyler Seguin slapshot from the point. The kid’s really something.

The Stars had to pull Jhonas Enroth with 80 seconds left (sidebar: based on the amount of pressure they were generating, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to pull him earlier) and the Stars pushed desperately for the goal that could potentially save their season. The wonderful combination of TJ Brodie and Mikael Backlund crushed the dreams of Dallas in nine quick seconds. The former intercepted a pass and rushed down the ice. Brodie missed the dump in shot, but Backlund flew down the left wing to play cleanup man. 5-3 Calgary

The assist on the play gave TJ Brodie his 100th NHL point in just his fourth season! This kid was a fourth round draft pick, by the way.

And the hellish third period was over. The Flames withstood the Stars’ pressure, and it did not look pretty. The Stars led 15-4 in shots, and 45-7 in corsi. In total, the Stars led in both measures, 36-25 in shots, and 100-47 in corsi. You’ll notice that the Stars’ third period produced as much offence as the Flames’ entire game. But who can complain when the score is 5-3 and the Flames are two points closer to a playoff berth?

Cheers:

  • The first line for, once again, saving our butts and coming up with two important goals in this game. We all love you

  • Rafa Diaz, who certainly deserved more than 8:21 on the ice tonight

  • Jonas Hiller. He always lets in one weak goal, usually early, but he bailed the team out numerous times tonight.

Jeers:

  • The Flames being so bad in the first and second periods. In the third period, there’s at least some excuse for trying to protect a lead, but through the first and second, they were garbage on fire. This game easily could’ve swung the other way.

  • Brett Ritchie, who should probably be suspended. The NHL’s one problem with the headshots rule is that they don’t act unless a player is seriously injured. Ritchie’s hit on Monahan was very similar to Joe Colborne’s against Ales Hemsky, and it’s ridiculous that neither of them will be punished for dangerous play.

Scoreboard watching:

It was 4-1 night all around the league. The Kings lost by that score to the Blackhawks, which puts them three points back from the Flames with a game in hand. Vancouver beat St. Louis by that score, keeping them two points out of reach for the Flames (they also have a game in hand). Edmonton also managed to beat Colorado by the same score, essentially eliminating the Avs from playoff contention. Sorry, Iggy. Buffalo beat Arizona in the McDavid finals 4-1, moving them to within four points of each other. The race is heated, and Connor McDavid is excited about neither option.

Next Up:

The Flames get some time off before facing the St. Louis Blues on Thursday at 6 PM. Make sure you join us in the gamethread!