With a little more than a month remaining in the regular season, the Western Conference playoff dogfight continues! The Calgary Flames (32-22-9) took to the road against the Dallas Stars (35-24-3) sitting only a point back of the last Wildcard spot.
Jon Gillies (2-0-0, 2.54 GAA, .914 SV%) will get his third straight nod between the pipes, as David Rittich (6-4-2, 3.03 GAA, .902 SV%) previously stellar play has come into question trying to hold onto the starter spot since Mike Smith has gone down.
The Flames nabbed Chris Stewart off the waiver wire on Trade Deadline Monday, and he’ll not only factor in tonight, he’ll bump Sam Bennett off the top line spot (Seriously.) beside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. (The Gulutzan Blender returns! Toss all your reasonable lines in a whipper and stick with whatever comes out! Apparently Stewart has a rep for being able to finish as long as somebody else is there to set him up, and there’s no more prime spot for that on this team. Meanwhile, Sam Bennett gets bumped back to the third line with Jankowski and Lazar, despite putting up two points in two games when he was slotted with Sean and Johnny. I was going to go on a rant about Gully’s “share the wealth” philosophy, but it gave me a headache just thinking about it. Insert Magic Bullet whirring sound here.)
Stewart-Monahan-Gaudreau were your starters up front, which didn’t seem to inspire confidence in the squad. The Flames didn’t register a single shot on goal until 15:54 of the first. That might have got things going, as The New Guy Stew-Guy managed to send Sean Monahan in alone...
No dice, but the juices started to flow a little, and the Flames managed to get back into things and get the shot count to 5-4 in their favour at the halfway mark, but they were getting out hit 10-3 by the Stars by that point. A couple minutes later at 11:12, Antoine Roussell took a penalty for interference right off the faceoff, and off that ensuing faceoff, Mark Methot rifled a clearing attempt into the stands for Delay of Game! The Flames headed to a 5-on-3 opportunity, but only managed two shots and a Dougie Hamilton ringer off the crossbar. And naturally, Curtis Lazar would take an interference minor shortly after at 14:48 to give Dallas their shot on the advantage. Jon Klingberg dinged a rocket of the crossbar himself, but that and another SOG was all the Stars would muster.
It looked like that would be the end of things, until an pretty average looking play ended up not being one. With a measly 39 seconds left, Devin Shore would make Gillies look like he was daydreaming about the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.
Devin Shore with the dirty deke. #GoStars pic.twitter.com/YjqeNeX3Am— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) February 28, 2018
Yikes. 1-0 Stars after one, shots were 10-8 in favour of Dallas.
The Stars carried over a 1:40 PowerPlay from a late Garnet Hathaway holding call into the second stanza, but they wouldn’t capitalize. Dallas’ Tyler Pitlick would then sit for slashing at 1:59, but despite several good looks for Hamilton and one for Gaudreau, the Flames wouldn’t pop one either. (What happened to all that Powerplay love? 0-3 on the night to this point, including the prior 5-on-3. Fun note, Calgary came into this game with 69 second period goals. #Nice)
Sam Bennett off for incidental high sticking at 9:27, and at 9:56 Tyler Seguin would drop a skyhigh roofjob to make it 2-0.
The dynamic duo back at it again. #GoStars pic.twitter.com/YkPer0lG2A— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) February 28, 2018
Blender Glen wanted to let the refs know that they missed a call. They heard him, and it cost him a bench minor at 10:04. (I’m not sure it was on-par with stick flip anger, but it was enough.)
Dallas did not make hay on the PP (THANK JEEBUS.) Pitlick found his way back to the Sin Bin at 13:18, and despite a 5 shot Powerplay the Flames would move to 0-for-4 with the extra man. In the meantime, the Stars got their 5th PP attempt after Mike Stone sat for slashing. Since the Flames weren’t clicking on the one end of special teams, they figured to try things shorthanded. Bishop first robbed TJ Brodie, and then Matt Stajan on a 2-1 with Frolik. (Worth a shot though, right? Maybe?)
Ben Bishop is on another level right now. Just one huge save after another. #GoStars pic.twitter.com/UW4AuvXmpt— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) February 28, 2018
Shots were a whopping 17-8 for the Flames in the second frame, bring the total to 25-18 CGY. After that avalanche of whistles, PIMs were 10 CGY, 8 DAL; score still 2-0 after 40.
The see-saw special teams evening continued, as Dougie Hamilton’s late tripping call carried 1:54 on PP over for the Stars to start the last 20 minutes. The Flames would survive the remainder. Back to even strength, Sam Bennett was miraculously back skating on the top line with Johnny and Monny, as Blender Glen looked to spark some offense. (Whirrrrrrrrr. Margaritas anyone?)
Everybody’s favourite Dallas player, Mr. Pitlick, nailed Troy Brouwer with an NFL Helmet To Helmet hit right in front of the player benches (Brouwer’s fracture-recovery face cage saved the day on that one.) Pitlick would get two for the hit, and in the ensuing scrum Radek Faksa and Brett Kulak wound up having a facewash competition into the dressing room hallway. They’d get offsetting minors, and the Flames headed to their fifth man advantage with 14 minutes left. Again, they didn’t score. (Whirrrr. This isn’t a Gulutzan joke, I could just really use a drink at this point.)
Pitlick takes his fourth penalty of the night at 18:18 for high sticking. (Penalty box benches at American AIrlines must be real cozy. Maybe they offer complimentary blended beverages.) Gulutzan pulls the goalie, but even an extra skater can’t help the abysmal powerplay, 0-for-6 on the evening.
Bishop’s rock solid night rolled on, as he turned aside 13 shots in the final frame to blank the Flames.
2-0 Dallas Stars, Final Score.
The Burning Embers:
Despite putting up almost 40 SOG on a zoned-in Ben Bishop, that’s the fifth time of the 2017-2018 campaign the Flames have been shut out. The formerly hot powerplay went ice cold, and the further down the stretch we get, the more the bad special teams and a lack of offense is going to crush you no matter who the opponent is. Gillies stopped 24 of 26 in taking his first loss, and was largely solid, he just saw absolute zero run support against Bishop at the other end. That’s a flat night for the PP, and a big time two points to drop in the Wild Card race no matter how you dial it up.
It’s another back-to-back scenario, as Calgary travels to the Mile High City to take on the 33-24-5 Avalanche at 7:30 Mountain tomorrow night. Colorado sits two points back of the Flames, and it’s another big contest against a team in the race.