That's not going to help the Calary Flames make the playoffs, but that 5-4 loss might severely cripple the Dallas Stars' ability to do the same down the stretch.
Things were going so well there for a while.
They went up early in Calgary on the first shot of the game - A wrister by Jamie Benn that fooled Kiprusoff, and dominated possession in the game's opening frame. They piled up 17 shots and a host of quality opportunities. They were clearly the better team at even strength and seemed poised to give the Flames fits all night.
They then lost their lead. They lost Eric Nystrom. They lost their ability to kill penalties. They lost their ability to win faceoffs in the second period. Add it all up and they lose the most important thing of all - One of their precious few remaining opportunities to collect points from teams not named Vancouver, San Jose, Nashville or St. Louis, and with San Jose and L.A. in action right now, they'll likely lose the Pacific Division lead and could move to 8th place.
Dallas was excellent through the first 30 minutes of this one, leading 2-1 and dominating even strength play, but the whistles kept blowing and the Stars paraded to the box one after another despite the disparity in possession. Calgary would score four times in a 10 minutes span to end the second and take a commanding 5-3 lead to the dressing room.
The Stars entered this one having killed off 41 of the last 43 penalties they've taken, but the conga-line to the sin bin tonight just overwhelmed them in the second period, disrupting the flow of what appeared to be an otherwise favorable match-up at even strength. Calgary would end the second 3 of 6 on the man advantage
Philip Larsen would add his second career goal in the third on a power play but the Flames were having no talk of a comeback and would put up a wall at the blue line for the remainder of the period. Loui Eriksson had a golden chance to tie the game on a breakaway with about 8:00 remaining but couldn't get the time and space he needed to beat Kiprusoff.
Dallas showed a lot of resolve tonight in battling as hard as they did in the third period. They fought valiantly, but like the game against Vancouver last week they just couldn't overcome the mistakes, and it's way too late in the season for moral victories.
They're now stumbling down the stretch to the tune of having lost four of their last six games.
- This is just the second time this year that the Stars have allowed 3 or more power play goals in a game. Oddly enough they won the first one - A 5-4 shootout win in Los Angeles on January 12th.
- It's the 15th time this year that Dallas has allowed five or more goals, proving that when it starts getting away from them - It really gets away from them and they allow them in bunches. For contrast, the Blues have allowed five or more goals this year... TWICE.
- Dallas has given up 25 power plays against in their last 6 games, while earning just 15. It's an issue that just won't go away this season, as pesky begets being shorthanded. (That tripping call on Mike Ribeiro was pretty outlandish tonight.)
- The Mike Ribeiro turnover on the second Flames goal needs little exposition. One of the slickest playmakers in the league can't make that play with that much time and space in his own end. Then there was the puck that went off Trevor Daley that caused such a scramble - and a goal. Then there was the goal scored on the shift that should have been blown down for pretty blatant goaltender interference on Kari Lehtonen a little earlier - The point is that it's hard to say the Flames played particularly well. The calls and the breaks were theirs and all theirs tonight. Bad break for a Stars team in desperate need of points.
- Vern Fiddler lost his right winger Radek Dvorak to an ankle injury earlier in the day, and then lost his mate Eric Nystrom early in the first period too. The inability to roll four lines hurt the Stars in the second period as the forced chemistry experiments resulted in minors taken and lack of zone time. The Stars have bodies in Tom Wandell and Toby Petersen, so it will be interesting to see what kind of lineup they field in Edmonton and Vancouver.
- Then Tomas Vincour went down, complicating the lineup problems further. He took a puck to the right arm while 10-38-81 were getting hammered in their own zone, then stayed out there for as long as he could before leaving. (Why was Ribeiro, with the Iginla line just absolutely buzzing, the one that came on for Vincour, btw?) That one screamed broken bone, but he would return to the game. Tough cookie.
- Jamie Benn - Brenden Morrow - Jake Dowell: That's some of the fun that came out of the injury situation in the third period.
- Even in giving up that many goals Kari Lehtonen was fantastic. Those two stops on breakaways appeared to keep Dallas in the game at the time and he made some good ones when the game was 5-4 as well. He's always battling back there, but the golden, un-earned opportunities handed to the Flames in the slot throughout the first and second periods were too much to overcome, even on a night when the boys get four for him at the other end.
- You have to love Adam Burish. He was going to kick that thing until it went in, and by golly he put it in there. Why they had to talk about that one is beyond me.
- We should be talking about how much better Jamie Benn was tonight than every other player. We should be talking about how four goals is a nice output on the road for a team that supposedly can't score. This one stings. This one stings a lot. Now they need to collect some wins, 4 wins probably now, in six games, against some really, really good teams down the stretch. Strap yourselves in. It's going to be a... bumpy ride.