Five out of eight series in the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs were tied 2–2 after four games. The Calgary Flames looked to make it six as they needed to claw back against the Dallas Stars in Game 4 on the road.
There was uncertainty all day with the Flames as they practised with Brett Ritchie on the second line in Andrew Mangiapane‘s spot, then warming up with the lines back to normal, just to have Michael Stone slot in as the seventh defender while Ritchie ended up scratched. A rollercoaster for bystanders, or mind games from Sutter? Either way, the Flames went with 11 forwards in a game for the first time since the season opener against the Edmonton Oilers.
Less than two minutes into the first period, Johnny Gaudreau was rattled by a hit by Vladislav Namestnikov that was called as an illegal check to the head. Gaudreau was visibly rattled and was slow to get up after stumbling on the ice. He played one more shift but then went down the Flames tunnel for an extended duration for evaluation. The Flames had to juggle 10 forwards and seven defenders for a while, which was a fairly major change for one of the league’s most consistent rosters of 2021–22.
Besides the potential major blow to the Flames if Gaudreau was hurt, they opened the game with desperation and were looking like their usual selves, being relentless with over 30 shot attempts at 5v5 in the opening period alone.
However, Jake Oettinger was as sharp as he has been for the first three games and was able to keep the game scoreless after one. This was one of the quietest periods for the series, with just one penalty per team.
Gaudreau also returned before the period was over which was a major relief. Overall it was a period that the Flames needed. They were finally able to break free from the Stars’ suffocating play and looked like their regular selves.
It was a period where the Flames were just one shot away from breaking through, yet they had to deal with a goaltender that was stoic and unnerved in Oettinger. The major breakthrough of the period—or perhaps even game/series—was that the Flames were dominating at 5v5. It was exactly the type of period that builds momentum, and thankfully Gaudreau was back on the bench by period’s end to boot.
The conservative nature of the first period quickly dissipated as the second period got underway. The Flames went on an early power play that was fruitless, and the Stars did the same right after. However, the next set of power plays came at the expense of Dallas, and Calgary was up on an extended 5-on-3 power play.
A bunch of puck movement led to a shot from the top of the circle by Rasmus Andersson, which made its way through and beat Oettinger just as the period passed its midway mark. The Flames were on the board first on one of the biggest goals of the series so far.
Calgary continued to dominate the period and after 40 minutes of play, as shots were 39–22 in the Flames’ favour. There was a stretch of play where the Flames hemmed the Stars in their own zone for an eternity (that lasted over three minutes, so yes, definitely an eternity in hockey terms). On the ensuing faceoff off an icing that had the gassed Stars unit remain on the ice, the Flames were called for interference in what was otherwise a flawless sequence.
At this point, Oettinger was the best Stars player by a large margin and the Flames were unlucky to only have one goal.
Most expected a pushback from Dallas in the third period as a 1–0 deficit is right where they’re comfortable, but the Flames extended their lead instead. Gaudreau was hooked on a partial breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot.
On his approach, he found an opening and scored five-hole on Oettinger to make it a 2–0 game. It’d be the Flames’ first multi-goal lead since they beat the Vancouver Canucks 6–3 on April 23. The Flames were back and it’s never felt better.
A few minutes after, the Flames went up by three thanks to a goal from Elias Lindholm. Noah Hanifin kept the puck in the zone and sent it to Gaudreau down low, who then found Lindholm wide open to put the puck into the net above Oettinger’s blocker. It’d be the game’s first 5v5 goal, and just the Flames’ third overall 5v5 goal of the playoffs.
The Stars pulled their goalie early with six minutes remaining due to a penalty against Calgary, and they were able to break Jacob Markstrom‘s shutout bid and get on the board with a goal from Tyler Seguin.
Mikael Backlund took a late penalty and while the Stars pressured, they were unable to score, and instead Backlund added an extra empty-netter when he got back on the ice to seal the victory for the Flames. The series heads back to Calgary tied 2–2.
Markstrom out-goalied Oettinger, the Flames outmuscled the Stars, and the series is tilted back in Calgary’s favour.
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