The Dallas Stars battled back from a 3-0 first period deficit, rallying to tie the game in the third period, but in the end, the Calgary Flames were able to pull out a 4-3 shootout victory Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
After battling back from third period deficits to win each of their two previous games and three of the five prior contests, the Stars were on the verge of doing it yet again, but Calgary clinched the shootout 2-1 when Curtis Glencross beat Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen with a quick snap shot past the blocker.
The Stars still receive a point for taking the game beyond regulation, giving them 80 points on the season, which ranks them sixth in the ever-changing, ridiculously-tight Western Conference standings. They are now 5-0-2 in their last seven outings, although the Flames’ win pushed them one point ahead of the Stars into fifth.
“It’s a positive point, given that we came back from a three-goal deficit, it’s not often that you do that,” coach Marc Crawford said. “We had a glorious opportunity to win it in overtime, and lost in a shootout, so you can’t be disappointed by it. I’m sure we would’ve liked to have two points, but it was a good, hard comeback by our guys, they dug deep as they’ve done all year, and at this point, it’s about getting all the points you can get, and tonight we managed to find a way to get one.”
After Calgary’s Alex Tanguay beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot on the Flames’ first shootout attempt, Mike Ribeiro converted on the Stars’ third attempt, making a slick move to his backhand before firing a wrist shot past Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff to even the tiebreaker competition 1-1.
Then Glencross came in and won it for the Flames.
After a highly successful road trip in which the Stars went 3-0-1 against each of their Pacific Division rivals, the club started a season-long seven-game homestand, in their fourth game in six nights in four different cities.
The Stars dug themselves a huge hole in the opening period by surrendering three goals within a 3:15 span, and they spent the rest of the night clawing their way out of it and they managed to get another vital point.
Jamie Benn continued his recent torrid pace with a goal, while Ribeiro also scored. And 20-year-old rookie Tomas Vincour capped off the comeback with the equalizer in the third period, his first NHL goal. Defenseman Jeff Woywitka added two assists.
“Whatever the situation is, we don’t seem to sit there and turn it into a bigger problem, we usually nip it and get back into games,” noted center Brad Richards, who returned to the lineup from a 10-game absence due to concussion-like symptoms. “It’s not the recipe we want to use, but it’s another big point that, halfway through the first, it didn’t look like we’d get.”
Getting Richards on the ice again was a big boost, although the club’s leading scorer admitted he felt a little out of sync in his first game back.
“It’s just holding onto pucks and getting hit. When I hold onto pucks, good things happen,” said Richards, who still tops the Stars with 63 points, two up on linemate Loui Eriksson. “Tonight, I was probably a little tentative doing that, but as the game went on, I felt better and better, and after another practice (Thursday), I’m sure that things will start feeling a lot more normal as we go on here. We’ll keep working on it and I’ll get more comfortable as we go.”
“I thought he looked like he was off for 10 games,” Crawford acknowledged. “I’m confident he’s going to be better the next game and I’m confident he’ll be better the next game after that. I don’t think you come back from that long a layoff without having some rust in your game.”
Lehtonen once again manned the crease for the Stars, starting his eighth straight contest, and once again provided a solid effort, making 31 saves, but none bigger than when he stopped Tanguay on a breakaway late in the first period with Calgary already up 3-0.
“Kari made a big save short-handed and that kept it at 3-0 and it ended up being very, very important, and we had some great chances throughout the game from that point on,” Crawford added. “I give our guys full marks, we got a goal on the power play, which got us going, and we got one in the first five minutes of the second period, and it looked like it was going to be one of those tight, tight third periods.”
It was. For the third consecutive game, Dallas headed into the final period trailing, this time by a 3-2 score, and they needed Lehtonen to come up with a big glove save on Rene Bourque’s one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle at 3:48.
Dallas then got the equalizer at 5:39 when Vincour finally found the back of the net, in his 14th game. After Toby Petersen helped him win a battle for the puck behind the Calgary net, Vincour curled out of the right corner and fired a laser beam of a wrist shot from sharp angle that whizzed right past Kiprusoff’s head just under the crossbar.
“It feels great right now, but we didn’t get two points, so it’s a little quiet around here now, but I will definitely never forget this moment in my life,” Vincour said. “I think it was long enough, I didn’t score in (13) games and I had a lot of chances that just didn’t go in. I tried to shoot it from the corner and it went in, so I was happy.”
“It was nice to see our rookie, Tomas Vincour, get his first goal, it came at a very opportune time,” said Crawford. “Hopefully that bodes well for us, that we got another guy scoring for us, a young guy with hands and a young guy with savvy and hopefully, now he’ll play with a little more confidence.”
Kiprusoff prevented the Stars from getting the go-ahead goal at 8:16 with a huge blocker save on Alex Goligoski’s rebound chance from the slot.
Lehtonen kept the game tied at 3-3 with a big stop of his own just over a minute later, denying Olli Jokinen’s point-blank backhander off the rush.
The Stars then had a golden opportunity to finish it off with a late power play, when Cory Sarich was whistled for boarding with 2:28 remaining in regulation. Dallas buzzed around the Flames’ net for almost the entire time, generating several scoring chances, but were unable to find the back of the net.
Their best opportunity came with 1:30 left, when Goligoski burst through the slot and drilled a point-blank one-timer from in front that Kiprusoff made a tremendous pad save on, setting the stage for overtime.
“We had a few chances,” Richards said of that late PP. “I’m a little rusty, and I didn’t hit the net right down the slot, we hit a post and a crossbar. Maybe the game’s on your stick there, we had good possession and good control, but we just didn’t get it done there.”
Each team had excellent chances to end things in the five-minute OT period, although Calgary had the territorial advantage, outshooting Dallas 7-2, but Lehtonen came up with some good saves.
His best sequence came 3:20 into overtime, after Jarome Iginla’s wrap-around attempt wound up loose in the crease, where Matt Stajan had two prime whacks at it, but Lehtonen, sitting on the ice with his pad across the goal line, kept the puck out.
Then the Stars almost finished it off with 1:09 left in OT, when they embarked on a 3-on-1 rush into the Calgary zone. Jamie Langenbrunner carried into the left circle and fed Goligoski in the slot, but Goligoski shanked the one-timer and Kiprusoff managed to make a diving save.
“We generated the best scoring chance in overtime, when we had the 3-on-1, and Goligoski just missed getting the perfect set-up,” Crawford said.
The Flames had the contest’s first good scoring chance 2:35 in when Mark Giordano blasted a slap shot from the point over Lehtonen’s glove, but it pinged off the post.
Calgary broke through to make it 1-0 at 10:26 on Bourque’s 23rd goal of the season. The Flames took possession after Goligoski lost an edge in the Dallas zone and fell down, and seconds later, as Glencross drove the net, Woywitka poke-checked the puck off his stick, but it landed right on Bourque’s and a quick wrister from the left face-off circle through a screen beat Lehtonen just inside the near-side post.
It took the Flames just over a minute to strike again, on another scenario where the Stars had trouble exiting their own zone. This time, Lehtonen stopped Tim Jackman’s wrist shot from the high slot, but Tom Kostopolous, all alone on the doorstep, pounced on the rebound and stuffed it home at 11:28.
The Flames completed the trifecta on Anton Babchuk’s goal at 13:41 for his 11th of the year. Babchuck’s slap shot from the right point nicked off Jamie Langenbrunner in the circle, changing direction just enough to foul up Lehtonen so that it appeared to go right through his glove and in.
With the Stars on a power play shortly afterwards, Calgary almost made it a 4-0 game when Tanguay sped into the Dallas zone on a breakaway, but Lehtonen came up with a huge save.
“We had a slow start, we were down 3-0, but Kari made a great save there and that’s what got us going,” Vincour said. “It’s a good thing we didn’t quit, we battled through that and at least we got one point tonight.”
On their second man-advantage opportunity in a row, the Stars finally got one back when Benn scored for the fifth straight game with 1:32 left in the period. After Kiprusoff stopped Benn’s high wrist shot from the right face-off circle, the rebound bounced to Steve Ott just to the right of the crease, and Ott slid a short pass back to Benn, who snapped a quick wrister past Kiprusoff to make it 3-1.
Down by two entering the second period, the Stars edged closer when Ribeiro struck for his 14th goal of the season at 5:12. As he carried the puck into the Calgary zone on the rush, Ribeiro cut across the top of the right circle into the high slot as Brenden Morrow drove to the net, and Ribeiro’s lethal wrist shot sailed past Kiprusoff’s glove and in.
Dallas continued to press for another one, generating several flurries of activity in the Calgary zone just past the midway point of the period, but Kiprusoff came up with some strong saves, denying Goligoski’s wrist shot through a screen at 11:32, and at least two point-blank chances by Benn.
At the other end, with the Stars perhaps pressing a little too much offensively, Lehtonen had to come up with a strong pad save at 12:22 on Jokinen, who slipped behind the Dallas defense and into the crease alone.
Overall, the Stars dominated play for much of the second, and wound up outshooting the Flames 15-4 in the period.
The epic homestand continues Friday night when Minnesota comes to town (7:30 pm, FSSW), and with the Wild another in the long line of clubs involved in the frantic playoff chase, sitting ninth with 77 points, there’s no reason to think the intensity will let up at all.
“They’re a pretty strong club, they’re a hard-working club that get pucks to the net and play a very robust style,” Crawford said. “They’ve got a defensive corps that’s positionally very sound and a goaltender Backstrom that’s played marvelous hockey for them and given them opportunities to be in the game every night.”
- Vincour, in his 14th game since his recall from AHL Texas on Feb. 6, recorded his first goal - and point - on his 17th shot. In just 6:34 of ice time, Vincour delivered four hits.
- Benn’s goal extended his career-long goal-scoring streak to five games and gives him 18 goals on the season, just four shy of the 22 he put up as a rookie last year. He also fired a game-high six shots on goal.
- With a goal in his second straight game, Ribeiro now has eight points (three goals, five assists) in the last seven contests.
- With an assist on Benn’s goal, Goligoski now has seven points (one goal, six assists) in the last seven games. He also logged a game-high 30:19 of ice time.
- Woywitka’s two-assist night, the first multi-point game of his career, snapped a 14-game point drought.
- The Flames ended up winning all four games of the season series between the clubs, outscoring Dallas by a combined score of 17-11.
- The Stars went 1-for-3 on the power play, leaving them 4-for-21 over their last six contests. They killed off the only Flames power play of the night, marking their eighth straight kill over of the last three games.
- Dallas is still a league-best 9-18-3 when trailing after two periods.