Flames Weekly: Game 7 Win Tees up 1st Battle of Alberta in 30 Years

Flames Weekly offers a look at how the Calgary Flames performed in the previous week. Be sure to check in every Monday for my take on the week that was, and to find out which storylines and players took center stage. Feel free to use the comment section below to let me know how you thought the team performed or post any ideas or questions about the Flames.

Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames Weekly
Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau (The Hockey Writers)

In the busiest week of the Flames’ 2021-22 postseason, the boys in red battled back from an early 2-1 series deficit, won back-to-back games to take a 3-2 lead, but failed to close the door on their first-round tilt with the Dallas Stars in Game 6. This opening-round series with the Stars was punctuated with plenty of rough stuff, great goaltending and an extremely tight-checking mentality that made it the lowest-scoring opener in the NHL playoffs. Of course, it also had to go all the way down to a deciding Game 7.

Flames Win Back-to-Back Games to Take 3-2 Series Lead

When the Flames faced off against the Stars last Monday night in Dallas, it wasn’t technically a must-win game, but it sure felt like one. History tells us that NHL teams that go down 3-1 in a series will lose 90 percent of the time, so it was the perfect time for Calgary to storm back with their most complete game of the series. After a scoreless first frame, Rasmus Andersson got the boys in red on the board midway through the second period with a blast from the point on a 5-on-3 power play. It was just what the visitors needed after being constantly thwarted by the red-hot Jake Oettinger.

Related: Markstrom’s Consistency Fuels Flames’ Fire

Of course, this was yet another tense, one-goal game heading into the third period, but the Flames finally got to exhale after Johnny Gaudreau scored his biggest goal of the series after being hooked on a breakaway attempt by the Stars’ John Klingberg. Calgary’s leading regular-season scorer beat Dallas’ 23-year-old netminder on the ensuing penalty shot with a silky smooth five-hole deke.

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Elias Lindholm padded the lead just five minutes later, but after the Flames got into some penalty trouble, the Stars spoiled Jacob Markstrom’s shutout bid late in the third. Mikael Backlund‘s empty-netter sealed Calgary’s 4-1 victory and gave them major momentum heading into Game 5 back at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday night.

Fresh off a Game 4 victory where they peppered the Stars’ Oettinger with a franchise-record 54 shots, Game 5 was another tight-checking, tough slog as the Flames found themselves down 1-0 heading into the third after Dallas’ Jason Robertson scored his first of the postseason. While a vast majority of Calgary’s scoring in this series came from the top unit, it was the team’s reshuffled second line of Backlund-Mangiapane-Coleman that came up big with the game on the line.

Just four minutes after Backlund tied the game 1-1, the second line struck again. This time, a streaking Andrew Mangiapane finally scored his first of the series with a beautiful, bar-down snapshot that beat Oettinger cleanly and nearly blew the roof off the Dome. Trevor Lewis added a late empty-netter to cap off the Flames’ comeback victory and put the Stars on the brink of elimination.

Flames’ Comeback Comes up Short in Game 6 Loss

The Flames have only made it to the second round twice in three decades, so they knew the immense pressure to close out the series was squarely on their shoulders as they took to the ice for Game 6 in Dallas on Friday night. The visitors did not get off on the right foot when Jacob Markstrom let in his only soft goal of the series late in the first period. The Stars then padded their lead early in the second frame and the Flames desperately needed a hero to kick start the comeback. So, cue… Michael Stone?

Related: Several Flames Surprised by Gaudreau’s Hart Trophy Snub

First inserted into the lineup for Game 4 to give the tired D-core a boost, Stone proved to be a huge catalyst for the Flames, scoring a goal and adding an assist within a four-minute span to tie the game up at 2-2 and give the visitors a chance to move on to the second round. However, Dallas added a goal late in the frame, setting up another nail-biting finish. With Calgary down 3-2 midway through the third, Markstrom made what could be the save of the playoffs to keep his team in the game.

Despite the heroics from the big Swede, the Flames could not find a way to get the equalizer and fell to the Stars 4-2 after Tyler Seguin scored what felt like the millionth empty-net goal of the series. After the game, Calgary’s leading playoff goalscorer told the media that he was not concerned about his team’s ability to close out the series.

“We’ve been a good team all year,” said Lindholm, “We have a lot of talent, and a lot of character, and one of the best goalies in the league. And we have home ice, so we’re excited.”

One thing Flames fans should not be excited about was watching their best defenceman get injured in the loss on Dallas’ second-period scoring play. Chris Tanev tripped over his defensive partner and ended up getting piled on by a couple of Stars players. The loss of the team’s most effective defender added that much more intrigue to the winner-take-all Game 7 at the Dome on Sunday.

Flames Win Game 7 Thriller in Overtime

Heading into Sunday night’s Game 7, Flames’ head coach Darryl Sutter sounded like he expected this battle to go the distance right from the start. “That’s the best part”, Sutter said. “This series deserves to have a Game 7. The score’s 12-12.” There was plenty of nervous tension in the Scotiabank Saddledome when they dropped the puck, but the game couldn’t have gone worse for the home squad in the early going, as Dallas’ Jamie Benn scored 40 seconds into the game on the Stars’ very first shot.

Related: Flames’ Sutter Is the Perfect Coach to Get Them Into the 2nd Round

Despite outshooting the Stars 17-8 after the first period, the Flames found themselves stymied by the outstanding saves made by the Stars’ 23-year-old netminder. The tide turned for the home squad early in the second period after Tyler Toffoli potted his first of the series on a nice deflection from the point. Dallas answered almost immediately to retake the lead at 2-1 but just six minutes later, it was another Flame who had been held goalless through six games that finally made his presence known.

Toffoli and Matthew Tkachuk both picked a great time to score their first goals of the series, as the Flames desperately needed their best players to step up in the do-or-die Game 7. While the home team peppered an incredible 26 shots on Oettinger in the second frame, they simply could not beat the Dallas playoff MVP and get the go-ahead goal.

So, after a scoreless third period where the visitors pushed back and outshot the home team, this game headed to overtime, which was fitting for a series that was tied 14-14 in total goals. For a majority of the extra frame, the Stars carried the play, but Calgary turned it on late and at 15:09 of the first overtime period, a new playoff hero was born.

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Gaudreau’s shot came from an impossible angle and somehow beat Oettinger over his shoulder, sending the C of Red into a delirious celebration that shook the building to the rafters. The Flames put a franchise-record 67 shots on the Dallas net, and it was just enough to win the series and set a date with their provincial rivals two-and-a-half hours up the highway. After the game, the man of the hour talked to the media about scoring the game-winner.

“It was awesome, it was a tight series for the whole two weeks here, and it came right down to the end there, Game 7 in overtime,” Gaudreau said. “You dream of stuff like that, scoring in Game 7 in overtime”. I have to admit, while the goals were definitely hard to come by, this had to be one of the most hard-fought, tight-checking series I’ve ever witnessed. Hats off to the Stars for making the Flames earn every win.

The Week’s Winners and Losers

  • While the Flames were battling the Stars in their first-round series, the organization’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate made quick work of their opening-round opponent in the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. Anchored by multi-point efforts from Glenn Gawdin, Byron Froese, Jakob Pelletier and Luke Philp, the Stockton Heat wrapped up a three-game sweep of the Bakersfield Condors Friday night at Mechanics Bank Arena. It was the first-ever postseason series win for the Heat, who now advance to the Pacific Division Final against the winner of the semifinal between the Colorado Eagles and Ontario Reign.
  • I know players who are fighting for their playoff lives don’t care much about individual awards, but it was great to see Markstrom get the nod on Tuesday as one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. When asked about the being nominated for the first time in his 12-year NHL career, the 32-year-old puck stopper didn’t have much to say, “Right now, not much. It’s all about tomorrow.” The other two finalists were the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin and the Nashville Predators’ Juuse Saros.
Jacob Markstrom Chris Tanev Calgary Flames Marian Studenic Dallas Stars
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
  • Speaking of NHL awards, I was a little surprised that the NHL’s second-leading scorer didn’t get selected as one of the three finalists for the Hart Trophy. Gaudreau had a career year for the Flames – he posted the second-best point total in franchise history, scored 90 points at even strength to lead the entire league and became a true 200-foot player in the process. Several of his teammates were shocked that “Johnny Hockey” was snubbed. “I guess I’m biased because I see him all the time, but he’s definitely one of the best players in the NHL,” Blake Coleman told reporters. “He’s what you buy tickets to watch.” I wholeheartedly agree.
  • Sunday’s Game 7 marked another major milestone for future Hall of Fame coach Darryl Sutter, as the 63-year-old bench boss set an NHL record for coaching in the most Game 7’s in league history. His 11th passed Mike Keenan, Mike Babcock and Claude Julien, who all coached 10. Before last night, Sutter already had the record for most career Game 7 wins with a record of 7-3. I guess having that wealth of experience behind the bench made a difference, as the Flames’ head coach is now 8-3 all-time.

Flames Week Ahead

The Flames are fortunate to get a couple of days off before they start their second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers. After the gruelling seven-game series they just wrapped up, I think they’re going to need it. Game 1 is slated for Wednesday, May 18 at the Scotiabank Saddledome, and Game 2 is scheduled for Friday, May 18. The series then moves to Edmonton for the next two games on Sunday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 24. I know a lot of hockey fans were hoping for the first playoff Battle of Alberta since 1991, so I really hope this series lives up to all of the hype.

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