The Calgary Flames have every right to feel positive vibes following a comeback victory and Friday night can clinch their Western Conference opening-round series against the Stars by winning Game 6 in Dallas.
The Flames scored three third-period goals in Game 5 Wednesday, rallying from down 1-0 for a 3-1 victory at home.
But as the Flames carry a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, Calgary coach Darryl Sutter provided a very pointed message.
“(Winning) Game 3 is a lot tougher than winning Game 2, and a lot of our players have never won a Game 3,” Sutter said. “And (winning) Game 4 will be a lot tougher than Game 3.”
As Pacific Division champions the Flames were the deserved favorites entering the series but have been given all they can handle by a Stars team that didn’t clinch a spot until they claimed a wild-card berth with one regular-season game remaining.
Maybe — and it’s a big maybe — the Flames have finally cracked the code to solving Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (who has a sparkling 1.63 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in the series) and/or the Stars have run out of whatever magic has kept them in a series in which they’ve been continually outplayed.
More likely, though, the Flames must find yet another gear to reach the second round.
“Building off that third period — playing our game, playing with confidence and not deviating from our system,” Flames forward Andrew Mangiapane said when asked what his team needed to do in Dallas. “We’re a good team when all lines are going, all three (defense) pairs. Just got to keep grinding them down and sticking to the system.”
The Stars certainly have had their troubles in the series, even though they have two wins. Calgary holds a 182-127 edge in shots and by every advanced statistic has been the better squad. In the last two games — both Calgary victories — the Flames were the better team in the third period and broke open tight clashes.
In the third period of Game 5, Dallas managed only five shots on goal Wednesday night, yet had a golden chance with a late power play while it was still a 2-1 score. They failed to even put a single puck on net during the man advantage.
“They took it to another level, and we didn’t,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We didn’t handle it very well. We stayed with them for two periods, obviously. They just cranked it up in the third period and we didn’t handle the puck well to give us an opportunity to spend time in their zone.”
Yet, the Stars know with a strong effort in Big D, they can push the series back to Calgary for a deciding Game 7 on Sunday.
“We’ve always been a good home team this year,” forward Jason Robertson said. “It’s unfortunate that we lose (Wednesday’s) game in the third period, but there are some positives to build off and we’ll have to use those for next game.”
One of those positives would be Robertson’s goal in that loss, his first of the playoffs after a career-high 41-goal regular season.
“At this point of the year, I’m just excited that we’re scoring goals,” Robertson said. “I want to produce offense, and it’s nice when I get to do that, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough. There’s not much to be happy about.”
–Field Level Media