The good news for the Calgary Flames is they don’t have time to let the disappointment stew.
Their crushing defeat in Thursday’s Stanley Cup playoff clash with the Dallas Stars — erasing a two-goal, third-period deficit only to lose on a final-minute goal by Jamie Oleksiak — won’t be in their minds long. With the series tied, 1-1, Game 3 of the best-of-seven opening-round set will be Friday night in Edmonton.
“At this time of year, there’s no solace if you lose 10-1 or you lose 5-4 like we did,” coach Geoff Ward said. “A loss is a loss, and you have to regroup quickly. … We can’t stay in this game. It’s over.”
For most of Thursday’s clash, the Stars were the better team and deservedly won. But the Flames deserve credit for rallying.
“It’s great to be able to play tomorrow and put this one behind us,” captain Mark Giordano said. “Listen, it was 4-4 with a minute left. I thought a lot of guys deserve a lot of credit for getting us back into that game late, but it didn’t go our way at the end.”
What remains to be seen is whether the Flames will have Matthew Tkachuk in the lineup Friday.
Tkachuk left Thursday’s game on a few occasions, the first time after being speared in the groin by Jamie Benn’s stick and the final time after being sandwiched by Benn and Oleksiak early in the third period. Tkachuk, who did not return after the latter hit, has just two points in the six games since play resumed but led the team with 61 points in the truncated regular season.
Ward provided no update, but not having Tkachuk in the lineup would create a big hole.
“He battles hard for us, game-in and game-out,” said winger Sam Bennett, who replaced Tkachuk on the top power-play unit and scored the tying goal with 2:49 to play. “I guess we’ll see what’s up with him, but he’s a tough kid. He brings a lot to our team. It’s unfortunate he had to leave there, but he’s a tough kid.”
Although it would be easy for the Stars to lament blowing a third-period lead, coach Rick Bowness would have none of it, realizing the difference between the two teams is slight.
“They’re a good hockey club, and we’re a good hockey club. It’s going to go back and forth. It’s going to be a hard-fought series,” Bowness said.
“That was a good game for 60 minutes. It’s unfortunate they got that short-handed goal and (Bennett’s) power-play goal, but that’s a good hockey team over there. They’re not going to dominate us for 60 minutes, and we’re not going to dominate them for 60 minutes. It’s unfortunate they got four, but that’s hockey. That’s playoff hockey.”
The victory was a huge development for the Stars, and not just because they netted the victory and evened the series. Dallas scored just six goals in its previous four games since play resumed, so a five-goal game was akin to dam bursting.
The best part, said defenseman John Klingberg, was his team’s commitment to the game plan through it all, especially after surrendering a goal to Dillon Dube 19 seconds into the tilt as well as after seeing their third-period lead disappear.
“It was huge to come back right away after that first goal. I don’t think we panicked at all after they scored that fourth goal,” Klingberg said. “We were happy Jamie scored that goal, but if we had gone to overtime, we would have played the same way.”
The Stars have allowed the first goal in 10 straight games dating to March. They’ve won only two of those, but both have come in the last three games.
–Field Level Media