The Dallas Stars playoff hopes took a big hit Monday night. Despite dominating play for a good part of the night, the Stars fell 5-3 to the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center.
With the regulation loss, the Stars (37-30-10) failed to gain ground on Winnipeg and remained six points out of the second wild-card spot with just five games remaining.
“For me it’s not over yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We’re going to keep pushing.”
The Stars pushed a lot Monday night, registering 100 attempted shots to 47 for the Flames. They had a 2-1 lead and were controlling play nine minutes into the second period, but Calgary’s Jiri Hudler banked a goal in off a Dallas defenseman and momentum changed. The Flames then scored two more goals over the next seven minutes to take 4-2 lead. The Stars could never catch up.
“They got the bounce, and then they got two chances and they bury both them,” Stars center Jason Spezza said. “We probably out scoring chanced them every period but we weren’t hard enough around the net. We couldn’t find a way to get more by him [Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller]. We definitely had the chances though.”
Spezza, Tyler Seguin and Jason Demers scored for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen started in goal but was pulled late in the second period after allowing four goals on 19 shots. Jhonas Enroth finished the game and stopped all five shots he faced.
“We emptied the tank again, and we played extremely hard,” Ruff said. “I thought Kari gave us everything he had. He’s given us everything he’s had down the stretch here. There were some tough breaks. If it wasn’t for him down the stretch, we wouldn’t be biting at someone’s ankles right now.”
The Flames won their second consecutive game and moved three points ahead of Los Angeles in the race for the third playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
“I definitely think that the tying goal was not only the key point of the game and more importantly of that second period. Then, we came right back and made a third goal, a fourth goal. So we got momentum,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “We knew that [Jamie] Benn and company would come out in that third period. They kept us under siege all period and I felt that we did a great job. We made the necessary plays at the right time. We blocked a ton of shots. [Hiller] was very good in net. It’s a huge win for us.”
The Stars took a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds into the game when Spezza carried the puck into the Calgary zone and scored off a blast from just beyond the top of the right circle.
The Flames tied by cashing in on their first power play of the night. Johnny Gaudreau made a slick pass from the right boards to Dennis Wideman, who scored from the slot to tie the game 1-1 at the 9:34 mark.
The Stars regained the lead with 33.7 seconds left in the first, cashing in on their third power play of the period. Seguin skated into the left circle and scored off a wrist shot to put the Stars up 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
The Flames drew even midway through the second. With a delayed penalty call on the Stars, Kris Russell put a shot on net, Hudler backhanded the rebound towards the net and the puck bounced off Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski and past Lehtonen at the 9:25 mark.
"I think we had a really good maybe two chances right before to make it 3-1, and their goalie made big saves. That's all it takes sometimes,” said Lehtonen. “It comes to the other end and a freaky bounce goes in. They get it going after that, and we didn't."
“It was lucky. Obviously, it was a lucky, lucky bounce,” Hudler said. “I thought it gave us more life.”
The Flames took the lead a little more than three minutes later when defenseman Raphael Diaz weaved his way through the offensive zone, pulled Lehtonen out of position, circled the net and tucked the puck into the goal to make it 3-2 Calgary at the 12:27 mark.
“I was too aggressive and banking on him shooting. Then I got stuck there, and he was able to go around,” Lehtonen said. “I think our D was interfered there too, and just bad decision-making by me on that particular play.”
Gaudreau scored off a blast from the slot at the 16:14 mark to make it 4-2, ending the night for Lehtonen.
The Stars cut the lead to 4-3 early in the third when Jason Demers scored through a screen set by Ryan Garbutt at the 3:44 mark. The Stars poured it on the rest of the third. They had a 45-7 advantage in attempted shots in the third, but just the one goal. Patrick Eaves came close to tying it, but his backhand shot hit the post with 7:15 remaining. Calgary’s Mikael Backlund sealed the win with an empty-net goal with seven seconds remaining.
“Obviously we are frustrated now,” Spezza said. “This team is not going to quit. We are going to try to run the table and get as many points as we can. But there is no doubt that this one stings.”
*The Stars had a 100-47 advantage in shot attempts, including 45-7 in the third period.
*Tyler Seguin had 16 attempted shots, including six on goal.
*The Stars missed 32 shots.
*Calgary blocked 32 shots.
*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 46 of 73 faceoffs (63 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 17 of 23 faceoffs (74 percent). Jamie Benn won 7 of 9 (77 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 16 (50 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 15 (47 percent).
John Klingberg led the Stars in ice time with 23:11.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Patrick Eaves – Jason Spezza- Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie – Shawn Horcoff – Brett Ritchie
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Patrik Nemeth – Trevor Daley
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jason Demers
Scratched: Travis Moen, Colton Sceviour
Injured: Jordie Benn (back)
Conditioning: Valeri Nichushkin
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.