Despite looking lethargic for most of Game 1, the Dallas Stars turned the tables and looked like a top-tier playoff team (at times) in Game 2 of their opening-round series against the Calgary Flames, and it was just enough to come away with a wild 5-4 win to even the series.
The Stars raced out to a 4-2 lead heading into the third period and maintained it until things got hairy with 7:39 left in regulation. Dallas’ special teams were not so special during those final eight minutes – surrendering a shorthanded goal and then a power-play marker in almost unbelievable fashion to the Flames.
But in playoff hockey, you never know who’s going to step up or be the hero on any given night. That’s one of the things that we love about the best postseason tournament in sports.
In Game 2, that hero was Jamie Oleksiak, as he smartly exposed Calgary’s sloppy line change in the final minute of the game and deposited a brilliant pass from Corey Perry into the back of the net with 39.2 seconds left in the third period.
Apparently the reports of Perry’s demise were a tad bit premature as he was a prime-time player for Dallas in the Game 2 triumph that evened the series at 1-1.
Big Ben is Back
Having Ben Bishop back in goal was a sight for sore eyes among the Stars’ faithful – and that faith was probably tested when they surrendered a goal to the Flames just 19 seconds after the opening face-off. Not to mention it was Dillon Dube, again, for the third time in two games. But that faith was restored when the top line stepped on the ice and countered with a goal that evened the game again.
“This is the playoffs, so you’ve got to manage the highs and lows,” Bishop would say afterward. He would know, after letting the first shot he saw since the round-robin games slip past him.
Big Ben finished with 22 saves in Game 2 as the Flames fired 26 shots on goal for the second game in a row, but he also picked up an assist – and more importantly the win.
Reunited and It Feels So Good
Once the trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov responded with their own goal less than three minutes after Dube’s tally, you could almost hear all of Texas exhale. Seguin and Radulov parked themselves in front of the net and the latter won a battle to slide the puck past Cam Talbot.
“Giving up that early goal didn’t rattle us at all,” said interim head coach Rick Bowness. “Those guys have got to lead the way, and they did. They did a great job. We needed a big game from them, and they responded.
All night long the trio looked like they were ready to play and had shaken off all of the cobwebs that plagued them in the previous four games. Eight minutes later it was Radulov who found a streaking Miro Heiskanen heading into the offensive zone and then he showed the NHL world why he was such a high draft pick.
The young blueliner showed his speed, smarts, and skill and wired a shot past Talbot to give Dallas its first lead of the series. The two points for Radulov were the first two of the postseason for him, which is something the Stars will need more of if they have ideas about advancing past the Flames.
Four Stars players finished with multiple points on the night. Radulov (1g-1a), Perry (1g-1a), Heiskanen (2g), and John Klingberg (2a) all brought their ‘A-Game’ and it was a big reason why Dallas tied the series.
Rough and Tough
It’s been no secret that the Flames are trying to punish the Stars defensemen with hits throughout the first two games. Sam Bennett, Milan Lucic, and friends have been taking their shots at Heiskanen and Klingberg at every opportunity. “Heavy bodies like Lucic and Bennett, they’re going to waste energy running around like that,” said Klingberg. “It’s not a problem for us, we can handle it. If they want to run around like that, we’re going to get offensive chances the other way.”
But it was Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk that was unable to finish the game after multiple collisions. Perhaps it was the wear and tear from playing that style after so much time off, and the nudge that Benn gave him right after a late first-period face-off.
The Flames outhit the Stars 44-41, but Dallas blocked more shots (17-10), outshot the Flames 36-26, and won the battle in the face-off circle again (53%).
Dallas held Calgary without a shot on goal for over ten minutes at the end of the first period and Heiskanen added his second goal early in the second period to give the Stars a 3-1 lead. Cruising, right?
Even when Derek Forbort scored his first career playoff goal to slice the lead to one goal, the Stars didn’t flinch and responded with a power-play goal 2:05 later when Perry capitalized and a gaggle of Flames players standing flatfooted around him. If you give Perry (who now has 38 career playoff goals) four whacks at a loose puck in front of a goaltender, chances are he is going to bury it and that’s just what he did. That’s why the 35-year-old has 377 career regular-season goals, and why the Stars signed him on July 1, 2019.
Everything was going swimmingly. The Flames thought they had scored early in the final period, but it was waved off after the officials ruled that Andrew Mangiapane kicked the puck past Bishop. Whew, bullet dodged, right?
It was until Klingberg flubbed a puck at the point on a Stars’ power-play and Tobias Rieder showed why he’s one of the NHL’s fastest skaters. He scored shorthanded at 12:24, definitely a goal that Bishop would like back, but Dallas was still ahead on the scoreboard 4-3.
No big deal, until Bennett, who was taking Tkachuk’s place on the power play, redirected a puck past Bishop to tie the game with 2:49 left. Imagine if the earlier goal hadn’t been disallowed? Disaster, right? Not so fast my friends.
Just setting the stage for Oleksiak to be the hero. “I don’t think we panicked at all (when Calgary scored the tying goal),” said Klingberg. “Obviously, we’re very happy that Jamie scored that goal, but if we went to overtime, we would have played the same way – and I think we dictated most of the game tonight.”
Aside from the opening goal, Dallas was indeed in control of the majority of Game 2 as Klingberg said. They looked like the team that earned one of the top-four seeds in the Western Conference before the NHL (and all sports) hit pause.
Dallas scored five goals in the Game 2 win. In the four prior games in the Edmonton bubble, they scored a total of six goals. Stars fans will surely want to see more of the Game 2 version of this team rather than the previous incarnations. For the Flames, it was their 11th straight loss in a Game 2. For the Stars, it was a much-needed win.
“That’s a good hockey club over there. They’re not going to dominate us for 60 minutes and we’re not going to dominate them for 60 minutes,” said Bowness. “We played a good, solid hockey game. That’s playoff hockey, and we responded in every situation – especially at the end with that big goal.”
Buckle up Stars fans because this series is now a best-of-five and has six or seven games written all over it. If Dallas has plans of advancing deep in these playoffs, this is a great series to get things going. The Flames are a tough, resilient team that isn’t going to roll over, but the Stars have more talent and star power across the board.
They should be happy the game didn’t go to overtime with Game 3 coming the day after Game 2. This is what the playoffs are all about though. Battling until the very end. Finding a new hero every night. Who will be the hero in Game 3?
Keep your eyes on Joe Pavelski. Like Perry, he was brought to Dallas for this very reason, and like Perry, he knows how to score in the postseason (50g-52a). He hasn’t found his way onto the scoresheet yet this series, but that could change as quickly as a deflected puck changes directions.