It’s one game at a time. I know it’s cliché but it can’t be more real than this. It’s one game at a time. Lets reload. We have a good schedule now in front of us. We have time to refocus, reload. - Bob Hartley
DALLAS, TX -- The heavily lifting isn’t done quite yet, but the Calgary Flames have put themselves in a favourable position with five games remaining in the regular season.
With a 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday, the Flames moved to 91 points, three clear of the Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific Division. The Kings, who lost 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, hold a game at hand over Calgary.
“Obviously that feels good since we’re battling with them,” forward Mikael Backlund said. “It’s great to see us get the big win and then to see them lose is perfect for us.”
The victory also moves the Flames ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who hold the second wild card entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Jets also have a game at hand.
Where Calgary sits when they resume action remains to be seen. The Flames are idle until Thursday when they’ll visit the St. Louis Blues before wrapping up the five-game trip Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.
For now, though, Flames coach Bob Hartley is more focused on refreshing his group.
“Lets reload. Lets refocus,” Hartley said. “We told you before we left that it wasn’t a five-game road trip for us. It was a three-game road trip and now we’re finishing it off and now we’re starting a two-game road trip. We’re going against a very good St. Louis Blues team then we’re going to be in Edmonton and then we’re getting back home in front of our fans.
“It’s one game at a time. I know it’s cliché but it can’t be more real than this. It’s one game at a time. Lets reload. We have a good schedule now in front of us. We have time to refocus, reload. We did a great job, I felt, in the last month making sure we were investing energies at the right time and trying to limit practice time.
“The guys responded very well but there’s still lots of work to be done.”
Plenty of work was done in Texas to set up Calgary’s final stretch.
It was kickstarted by Jiri Hudler in the second period with the Flames trailing 2-1, sparking the first of three goals in a 6:49 span to help the Flames rally. Hudler swatted a rebound off Kris Russell’s initial point shot by Stars starter Kari Lehtonen to tie the game 2-2 at 9:25.
“I definitely think that the tying goal was the key point of the game and more importantly of that second period,” Hartley said. “We came right back. We made it a third goal, a fourth goal. We got momentum."
Raphael Diaz’s wraparound convert at 12:27 gave Calgary a one-goal lead. Johnny Gaudreau, with his 22nd of the season, the eventual game-winner, bumped the Flames lead to two and chased Lehtonen in the process.
A goal from Jason Demers just 3:44 into the third period helped close the gap, but it was Jonas Hiller’s only blemish in a 14-save frame that was capped with an empty netter from Backlund with seven seconds remaining in regulation to preserve the win.
“We knew that they’re desperate," Hartley said. "They couldn’t afford to lose in regulation so we knew that Benn and company would come out in the third period. They kept us under siege all period. I felt we did a great job. We made the necessary plays at the right time. We blocked shots. [Hiller] was very good in net.
“It’s a huge win for us.”