The Dallas Stars played perhaps their best game in the 2020 Playoffs and came away with a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames in a pivotal Game 5. With the win, the Stars can now punch their ticket to the second round and extinguish the Flames for good on Thursday in Game 6.
Dallas’ defense was on point for the majority of the game and their top players came through and outplayed Calgary’s top players. “We’ll move forward from this pretty quick,” Stars’ captain Jamie Benn told the media after the game. “To win a fourth game in any series is obviously the hardest, and we expect Calgary to obviously bring their best.”
Benn scored the game’s opening marker in the first period while shorthanded (the play started in their own zone when it was 4-on-4), crashing the net and depositing a perfect pass from Tyler Seguin. John Klingberg netted the winning goal early in the third period, wiring a shot past Cam Talbot from long range after a precision pass from Mattias Janmark.
Dallas thoroughly outshot Calgary throughout the game and held them to 14 shots on goal through two periods before the Flames responded with another 14 shots in the third period when they made their push to attempt to tie the game.
The Flames are 0-9 all-time when they are down 3-2 in a series and the Stars are 3-15 all-time in the same situation, which is just another reason why this game was and could be a huge turning point in the series. It was also the first time Dallas won two games in a row since before the NHL hit the pause button.
Here are our three main takeaways from the Stars’ Game 5 win that pushed the Flames to the brink of elimination.
1. Unsung Heroes
In a 2-1 game, there were a lot of unsung heroes. The two that stood out the most – Janmark and Joe Pavelski. Janmark had the assist on the game-winning goal, but if you watched the game his fingerprints were all over it. Slick passes, blocked shots, premier positioning – you name it, he did it. This did not go unnoticed by his teammates and coaches.
Pavelski didn’t get an assist on the game-winning goal, but he accidentally on purpose got in the way of a Flames player that allowed Janmark a clear lane to make the pass to Klingberg. He’s not going to get a hat trick every game, but his contributions in Game 5 were just as important as the ones he made in Game 4.
“I’ve seen him definitely step up his play,” said Benn of Janmark. “He’s an important player for this team. I think he does a lot of the little things right, he uses his speed well, and I think our whole team got a big boost today from the early shot block that he had. When you do the right things out there you get rewarded.”
Janmark actually missed a few minutes in the first period after blocking that shot that Benn referenced, so fingers crossed that it is not an issue going forward for him or Dallas.
“I tell you what, he ignited that bench tonight when he blocked that shot, and that hurt like heck,” interim head coach Rick Bowness said in his postgame presser when asked about Janmark. “If you’re going to win in the playoffs you have to be willing to pay that price and Janny paid the price. That sparked the whole bench when we saw him dive in front of that shot.”
“To me, Janny has played very, very well. He’s skating well, he’s done a great job on the penalty kill, and he’s fit in well with Dennis (Gurianov) and Pavs, and that shot block showed you how committed he is to winning,” added Bowness.
Janmark wasn’t the only one paying the price. In the final ten minutes of regulation Andrei Sekera, Pavelski, Corey Perry, and Jamie Oleksiak (x2) all had humongous big blocked shots that helped their team win.
Oleksiak’s two blocks were perhaps two of the biggest – as they came in the dying seconds when Calgary was really pushing to tie the game during a 6-on-4.
2. Doby Rolling
For the third straight game, Ben Bishop was deemed unfit to play and now Anton Khudobin is on a roll in goal for the Stars. In both Game 3 (21 saves) and Game 5 (28 saves), he has surrendered a grand total of three goals. The team is responding to his play and there is no reason to believe they can’t pull off the same feat in Game 6, or if needed, in a Game 7. In the six games, he has played this postseason he has only surrendered 15 goals on 180 shots faced (.922 save percentage, 2.19 GAA).
The lone goal he surrendered in Game 5 was a shot that had eyes and weaved its way through traffic and its unlikely that Khudobin even saw it coming as he peered around a plethora of bodies in front of him. Surrendering that goal at the end of the first period could have been a game-changer, but the Stars and their goalie didn’t flinch and also got a little help from the friends – the red pipes.
3. Special Teams
Stop the presses! The Stars didn’t give up a shorthanded goal! In fact, they scored one themselves to open the scoring in Game 5. Quite the role reversal, or as Michael Scott would say, ‘Well, well, well…how the turntables…’
The play started in their own zone while at 4-on-4 and was sparked by a big hit by Oleksiak that freed up Seguin to get the puck and race up the ice with Benn.
“We found a way to get a two-on-one and Segs made a great play. He pretty much put it on my stick. That’s all,” Benn said nonchalantly.
“Jamie was going hard to the back post and I think the crossbar got the best of him there. It was a big hit, but a good goal,” Seguin said with a sly grin during his postgame availability.
It is great news for Dallas that Benn and Seguin are starting to heat up. Even better news that Seguin was taking some face-offs in Game 5, which may mean that whatever was ailing him at the start of the series is starting to subside.
On paper, from top-to-bottom, the Stars have a better team than the Flames and it has started to show. But that does not mean that Calgary can’t win the next two games. They have some elite talent over there and all it takes is one or two plays or missed assignments for them to be unleashed.
The Stars can advance to the next round and get a little bit of much-needed rest after playing eight games over the past 15 days and six games in the past nine days. Game 6 is Thursday, August 20, and if necessary Game 7 will be Saturday, August 22.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.