The Calgary Flames went into the Lone Star State tonight hoping for two points in the back half of a back-to-back (with both games on the road).
Sixty minutes of hockey – and a few lucky breaks later – the Calgary Flames edged the Dallas Stars by a 5-3 score, effectively ending the playoff hopes of their hosts and putting themselves one step closer to a post-season berth.
The Flames made life tough for themselves in the first period. They gave up a goal to Jason Spezza in the first minute of the period (on the first shot on Jonas Hiller of the game), and another on the power-play to Tyler Seguin in the final minute of the period. In-between, Dennis Wideman temporarily made the game 1-1 on the power-play. Shots were 10-5 for the Stars, who deluged the Flames at even-strength.
The second period was where Calgary came alive, at least temporarily. The Flames scored three times over a seven-minute span to take the lead. Jiri Hudler tied it up at the half-way mark of the period. Raphael Diaz scored on a nifty wrap-around to give the team a lead. Johnny Gaudreau scored a few minutes later to give Calgary a two-goal lead heading into the intermission. Shots were 16-11 for Calgary in the second.
With their playoff lives on the line, Dallas scored early in the third to draw closer. Jason Demers deflected in a Jamie Benn shot three minutes into the third to make it 4-3. From there, the Stars just deluged the Flames with shots and chances, but the Flames (and Jonas Hiller) did their best to defend. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, Mikael Backlund scored an empty-netter late to make it 5-3 and extinguish the Stars’ playoff hopes. Shots were 15-4 in the final period.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Calgary’s been opportunistic all season long, making the absolute most of what chances they were given. Unfortunately for the Stars, the chances Calgary got were from the team’s dynamite top line of Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler – who hit the 70-point mark tonight – and if you give those guys opportunities, they will hurt you.
And while Jonas Hiller was not good early – he’ll want that Jason Spezza goal from early-on back – he was superb late in the game with two points on the line.
Let’s give it to Jiri Hudler, who has been the proud Papa Bear to the young pups on his line this season. He had a goal, an assist and was plus-three this evening in 17 minutes of work.
And a stick-tap to Deryk Engelland and Dennis Wideman, who combined for 13 blocked shots between them.
SUM IT UP
The Flames have improved to 42-28-7 on the season, good enough for 91 points. They sit tentatively in third place in the Pacific Division. Their magic number on the Los Angeles Kings – per Pat Steinberg of Sportsnet – is down to just 5 games.
Any combination of five Flames wins and/or Kings losses, and we see playoff hockey on April 15.