The Dallas Stars took another step with a Game 3 home victory on Saturday night against the Calgary Flames. They now lead the series 2-1 entering Game 4 on Monday. After three years without a home playoff game, the first one did not disappoint as a sellout crowd at the AAC waved their rally towels and gave their team a true advantage all game long.
Heiskanen is Back to His Old Tricks
Miro Heiskanen recorded 26 points in 27 games during the Stars 2020 run to the Stanley Cup Final. After an up and down season in 2021-22, the young defenseman has been elite over the first three games in the playoffs. With two points on Saturday, he now has 32 points in 43 career postseason games.
“Miro was dominant tonight, I thought that was his best game in a while,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “He was skating with the puck, hanging onto the puck, making plays, good defensively. That’s the Miro we need to see. That’s his best game.”
Heiskanen ended the night with two assists, a plus-2 rating, and 26:08 of ice time. On top of that, he was an incredible diving save by Jacob Markstrom away from adding a goal to his night.
Stars Come Up Big When it Matters Most
Multiple players stepped up for the Stars in crunch time on Saturday and the team as a whole continuously rose above the pressure to come out on top. Each time they took on water or were hit with adversity, someone stepped up.
Joe Pavelski tallied two goals, including the game-winner with just under 10 minutes to go. With the late goal, Pavelski surpassed Evgeni Malkin for the most game-winning goals in the playoffs among all active players (14). The 37-year-old continues to set milestones and climb charts but most importantly, he is delivering huge performances for Dallas when they need it.
“It was big,” Pavelski said. “It’s another step, there was a lot of effort out there tonight, up and down the lineup. A lot of physicality, guys hanging in, taking checks, making plays, giving checks. It was a competitive game, and our group was very completive. I like that. First game here in Dallas in front of these fans in the playoffs. It lived up to it. I heard nothing but great things. It was nice to get that win and take another step. They’re going to regroup and I’m sure it’s going to be another good one.”
Jake Oettinger also continued his dominance in the postseason, stopping 39 of 41 Calgary shots and moving his series save percentage to an elite .969 (stopped 93 of 96 total shots). Above all other saves, his late third-period stop on a Johnny Gaudreau breakaway was exactly the timely save the Stars needed to hold onto their one-goal lead and secure a victory on home ice. It also did not hurt that it was Oettinger (Boston University) bettering Gaudreau (Boston College) on the play.
“How many times have you heard me say, ‘Timely goal, timely save,” Bowness said. “That was one big timely save. Jake’s been fantastic, just rock-solid back there. He’s poised, not intimidated by these surroundings, the noise, the team. He’s just handling it very well. I’m very proud of him… Elite athletes—it’s not just their physical attributes you admire, it’s their mental skills, which is just as important. Jake has that inner strength, that belief in himself. He has tremendous poise, and that’s what an elite athlete has. [Andrei Vasilevskiy], when I had him coming in, it took him a year and a half, two years to take off. With Jake, he was forced into a tough situation this year and it didn’t bother him, and now we’re throwing him in there in the playoffs, not bothering him. Elite athletes have that innate ability to believe in themselves and rise to the occasion at the right time.”
Stars-Flames Series is Far From Over
Arguably the most competitive series so far, the Stars and Flames have battled their way through really three one-goal games. The physicality has been through the roof and continued on Saturday as the teams racked up 38 penalty minutes, almost all of which came in the form of roughing, fighting, or unsportsmanlike conduct.
The war began just over one minute into the game when Matthew Tkachuk went after John Klingberg (surprise, I know). Klingberg has been a target for the Flames but the physicality did not stop with him. The Stars delivered 44 hits compared to the Flames’ 23 and were the better team in that part of the game most of the night. Still, this intensity is showing no signs of stopping, meaning this series is far from over.
“It is right where you want to be but obviously, they had a 2-1 lead on us in the bubble, so the series is far from over,” Jake Oettinger said. “We know that, they know that. We have a ton of work to do and we put ourselves in a great position right now. But they are going to play like it is elimination next game so we are going to have to match that level.”
Game 4 will come Monday night in Dallas with the Stars having a chance to put a stranglehold on the series before heading back to Calgary.
He Said It
“It was unbelievable, it was so fun. We have such great fans and they turned it up even more tonight than the regular season obviously and I don’t think they realize how much that helps us and how much energy that gives us so we’re going to need them again on Monday.”
Sam’s Three Stars
- Third Star: Miro Heiskanen, DAL (2 assists, plus-2)
- Second Star: Jake Oettinger, DAL (39 saves on 41 shots, .951%)
- First Star: Joe Pavelski, DAL (2 goals)
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!