The Flames started this one off right. Just 19 seconds into the game, a shot from the point bounced off the back boards and right to Dillon Dube who put it past Ben Bishop. Unfortunately, that lead would not last long. With Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov pressed in front of the net, the puck bounced off Derek Forbort‘s skate and past Cam Talbot to level the score. The rest of the first period was all Stars. They controlled play, denying almost all Flames chances save for the third line. Both teams were very physical, electing to hit anything that moved.
The second period started the way the first ended. The Stars took control right from the opening whistle, and just under five minutes in, Miro Heiskanen added to the Stars’ lead with a knuckler that beat Talbot short side. Coach Geoff Ward called a timeout to resettle his team, and ten minutes later Forbort shot beat Bishop from the point to pull the Flames within one. However, the Flames took a bit of a sloppy penalty and on the ensuing powerplay, Corey Perry jammed a puck in past Talbot to put the Stars back up by two. It wasn’t over though.
The Flames roared back in the third, starting with a vintage short handed goal by Tobias Rieder, followed by a late powerplay equalizer off the stick of Sam Bennett. Alas, it was not to be, as the Flames lost track of Jamie Oleksiak who finished a pretty passing play to sore the game winner with just 40 seconds left in the third. The Flames were hopelessly outplayed in this game, and just couldn’t hold on at the end.
5v5 Player Stats
- Only six Flames finished above 50% CF, Milan Lucic leading the way with 77.8% on the night.
- Matthew Tkachuk, who left the game multiple times with various suspected injures was a team-low 22.7% CF.
- Mark Giordano finished at 63.2% xGF, with 0.7 xGF at 5v5.
- Ten Stars skaters finished above 50% CF, Radek Faksa leading the team with 68.4% CF.
- Taylor Fedun, who replaced Stephen Johns in the lineup, was a game-low 11.1% CF in just over five minutes of ice time.
- Mattias Janmark led the game with 100% SCF going 5-0.
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
The Flames didn’t deserve to win this game. They were outworked and outplayed for basically the entire game and it looked like that was due to a the Stars being excellent and the Flames being poor.
The biggest issue for the Flames was zone exits. They got absolutely hammered by the Stars’ forecheck and had immense difficulty exiting their zone. They spent so much time just trying to get into neutral ice that by the time the puck finally ended up on Dallas’ side, it was time for a line change. This is very concerning, especially considering this is one of the main reasons Colorado was able to dismantle the Flames last playoffs. Granted, they did get a bit better as the game went on, but Dallas ran a very aggressive forecheck with all three forwards pressuring the puck carrier, and the Flames just couldn’t get it up the ice. This should be a huge area of focus for the team going forward; they need to figure out how to break that full court press.
This led to the team being largely ineffective at even strength. Outside of the third line, the entire team was stymied the whole game. Nobody could get into the Dallas zone let alone set up any plays. To make things worse, the Stars were hitting absolutely everything, which drew the Flames away from their gameplan and into a trench war which, yes, they are equipped to play, but a dangerous deviation when you’re down by a couple goals.
And, last but not least, we saw Talbot let in another pancake, this time to Heiskanen who dominated all night. That’s three not-great goals let in by Talbot this series, and it seems likely that despite his heroics against the Jets, it might be time for David Rittich to give things a whirl. It would not be surprising to see him tend the pipes tonight in the second half of the back-to-back.
Let’s not take away from the comeback, though. The Flames did really turn things up in the third period and fought valiantly to tie the game. Rieder’s goal was massive, and the powerplay finally clicked to give them the tie late in the game. The fact that the team ended up losing the game is tough, especially with a goal that late, but it was a momentary lapse in judgement that cost them. Can’t see that happening to them again. Playoff hockey is the best teacher and every Flame learned something on that goal.
Here’s the thing: last night, nobody shone bright for the Flames. The top line was invisible, the second line got absolutely caved in, the fourth line was bad, and even the third line struggled after the opening frame. This is a balanced team but definitely has some key offensive players. Those players need to start producing at even strength. Gaudreau has to get going, Monahan has to get going, Lindholm has to get going, and hopefully Tkachuk is healthy for tonight. This is the playoffs. It’s time to show up.
All in all, it was a heartbreaking loss, but it’s not the end of the world. For all intents and purposes, the Flames were the road team and got a split in the first two games. That’s the goal! Dallas played a much, much better game last night and the Flames were still able to claw back and even things up with less than a minute to go. If they stick to their game, they’ll be just fine. Tonight will be huge; make sure you tune in for the most important game of the year.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the UGLy
Good: Great to see Derek Forbort get his first NHL playoff goal. He’s been so steady for the Flames and he deserved to be rewarded.
Bad: Talbot let in another muffin. He’s been amazing, but that’s three now just against the Stars. Do we see Rittich tonight? Seems like we might.
Ugly: Being 40 seconds away from overtime and losing the game is crushing. Hopefully the Flames can bounce back but that one has to sting.
Opponent: Dallas Stars
Photo by: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images