Playoff hockey made its way back to the American Airlines Center for the first time in three years, and the Calgary Flames would come into Dallas with a chance to play spoiler for Dallas Stars’ playoff return to Texas. With the series tied, Calgary was sure to be eager to restore their home ice advantage by picking up a win or two. However, Dallas seemingly figured out exactly how to shut down the Flames and had a huge opportunity to upset the Flames too. To say Game 3 was critical for both teams is an understatement, especially with both struggling to score.
Just over a minute into the game, a fight broke out between Matthew Tkachuk and John Klingberg. Almost as if it was foreshadowing, the two teams spent more time with at least one player in the box or more throughout the first period. Less than 10 minutes of actual game time was spent at 5v5 in the first frame.
Eight minutes into the game, during an extended 4v4 due to offsetting minors to Trevor Lewis and Joe Pavelski, the Stars got onto the board with a goal from Radek Faksa tipping a shot over Jacob Markstrom‘s glove-side shoulder. It was a perfect tip with little fault to Markstrom, and it was a big goal for Dallas who was veering into head-games-territory with the Flames.
However, the Flames answered back later in the period thanks to Lewis picking up a loose puck in the crease to put it over Jake Oettinger. The goal was challenged for goaltender interference as it looked like Milan Lucic might have interfered with Oettinger, but the review concluded that Oettinger initiated the contact. Just like that, the game was tied and the Flames went immediately onto the power play—although they were unsuccessful at taking advantage of the failed Dallas challenge.
Heading into the first intermission, the game was tied at one goal apiece, which for Calgary was an improvement over being shutout in Game 2.
Early in the second period, the Flames got their first lead since Game 1. Elias Lindholm was left alone in the slot to receive a pass from Johnny Gaudreau. Lindholm did as Lindholm always does, and sent a one-timer past Oettinger over his blocker.
As mentioned, it’d be the Flames’ first lead in over 83 minutes of hockey. Not ideal for Calgary, especially as they led the league with fewest minutes of trailing hockey in the regular season by a large margin.
Just past the midway point of the second, Markstrom made a highlight-reel save with his glove while windmilling, but was unable to sequence it into a catch. The puck remained loose and the Stars were able to get another shot that led to a rebound for Pavelski to tap in for the tie.
Another period with one goal per team, the game was tied 2–2 after two.
While the day’s other three Game 3s saw upwards seven, 10, and 11 goals scored, the four goals scored between Calgary and Dallas was this series’ equivalent of goal scoring riches.
The Flames had a strong open to the third period, but had their offensive momentum stifled with a few penalties. Midway through the final period, the Stars were back on the power play and Pavelski scored his second of the night on another big rebound from Markstrom.
Throughout the game, both teams saw swings in momentum at 5v5, but the Flames saw the ice tilted in their favour when considering all situations play. However, the Stars were up 3–2 simply for being more opportunistic and getting finishing to go along with their chances.
As time wound down, the Flames continued to push for the game-tying goal. Gaudreau had a prime opportunity on a breakaway, but his shot was saved by Oettinger—who was integral in maintaining the Stars’ lead in the third period.
With the Flames’ net empty with 100 seconds to go, they were simply unable to establish any rhythm in the offensive zone. Dallas was able to win faceoffs and dump the puck, Jamie Benn hit the post on an icing with 16 seconds to go, and Roope Hintz scored on the empty net at 19:59 in the third.
The Stars shock the Flames and take a 2–1 series lead. Pavelski and Oettinger both get co-producer credit in orchestrating the shutdown of the best team in the Pacific Division. The Flames aren’t out of the series by any means, but that’s three straight games where the Stars were effective at preventing the Flames from doing what they do best.
It’s time for the Flames to reset and break past the Stars to set their own systems on the ice for Game 4. Nothing will serve the Flames better than having a short-term memory and working on exploiting the Stars’ systems instead of letting the Stars do the same to them.
It’s cliché to say it, but the best thing to do is simply look forward onto the next one. It’s too early to panic, The Flames will try to tie the series up for Game 4. Data visualisations from 4–2 Game 3 setback below.
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