If the Calgary Flames need a history lesson to remind them their situation isn’t hopeless, they must only look at what happened the last time they met the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
As the Flames prepare for Monday night’s Game 4 in Dallas, they trail the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series 2-1. It’s the same position the Stars were in two years ago, but Dallas went on to beat Calgary three straight times and advance.
“I have more than enough belief in this group to know that we can come out of this,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said.
It would help if Calgary’s offensive attack arrived.
The Flames, a top-level scoring team in the regular season, have just three goals in three games. The top line of Elias Lindholm, Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk — all 40-goal scorers in the regular season — have two of those goals, both by Lindholm.
Understandably, they’re under the gun, but that leaves plenty of others who need to provide more for a squad that believes its depth should be the difference.
“Our group still feels really good, really confident in our ability,” said forward Blake Coleman, who is among those failing to provide offense. “We win one game we have home ice back, and that’s the goal coming in here. There’s no panic in our room. We have a lot of guys who have been here in these situations.”
That said, the Flames have had plenty of chances and controlled most of the play all series. At some point, those opportunities should go in, but the questions is whether it will happen in time.
“It’s more about just everyone digging a little deeper, you know? Those second and third efforts, more of that, get those greasy goals,” forward Trevor Lewis said.
The Stars should feel secure when considering their franchise history. Since the team moved to Texas in 1993, the Stars are 12-0 when taking a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series.
It is a team game, but unquestionably the two biggest reasons why Dallas leads the series have been the goaltending of Jake Oettinger and clutch production by Joe Pavelski.
Pavelski has three of his team’s six goals this series, including the game-tying and game-winning goals in Saturday’s 4-2 victory, which gives him 10 goals in 16 career playoff games against Calgary. He’s netted both game-winning goals for his team.
“Elite athletes, man, they find a way to rise to the occasion,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said. “Joe came up big, but again, it’s always around the net. There’s a timing to get there. There’s a timing anticipating the shot. You can’t get there late, you can’t get there early — there’s a timing with that. Obviously he has it down pat.”
Meanwhile, Oettinger has posted a 1.01 goals-against average and .969 save percentage while stopping 93 of 96 shots, all in his first opportunity as a starter in the playoffs. His play is a huge reason the Flames have just one power-play goal in a dozen chances.
“He’s been making the saves he’s had to,” Pavelski said. “Then he’s made those timely ones for us. The guys are playing hard in front of him. There’s been a lot of sacrifice with some big shot blocks along the way. He’s stood tall and he’s earned this opportunity. It’s starting to show, which is great to see. It’s helped us win these couple of games.”
–Field Level Media