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Power Play Shines As Stars Put Out The Flames

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The Stars scored twice on the man advantage, as they beat the Western-leading Calgary Flames for the third time this season. With the two points, the Stars pushed their magic number to five.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

After a dominating win on Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets at the tough Bell MTS Place, the Dallas Stars took their road trip to the equally tough Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta to meet the Flames.

This was the second game of a four-game trip through Canada, and the Stars were looking to continue their winning road ways against the Flames. Coming into this one, the team had recorded a season-best five consecutive wins on the road dating back to February 28 against the Los Angeles Kings. The Stars were also looking for a season series sweep against the top-seeded Flames, as they had defeated them in Calgary back in November and shut them out in December at the AAC. This game was rather large for the Stars from a seeding perspective as well, with the Colorado Avalanche three points back of the Stars for the first Wild Card and in action against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Stars saw Jason Spezza come back into the lineup after he was a healthy scratch for the previous two games, which meant that Brett Ritchie would be the odd man out. The Stars also sought to ride the hot hand by giving Ben Bishop the start in net.

First Period

The first frame began rather gingerly for both team as whistles littered the inital five minutes, and the two sides really didn’t seem to have much energy to their game. Dallas garnered most of the zone time in the first five minutes, attempting to move the puck behind the Calgary defense in hopes of establishing a forecheck to start. However, the Flames’ defense was up to the task, as they made simple zone exits and worked the puck into the neutral zone.

The slow start to the period didn’t last, as the Flames finally got their end of things going around the five-minute mark of the frame. The Flames consistently changed the point of attack as they entered the zone, forcing the Dallas defense and goaltender Ben Bishop to move laterally. The clinic continued for the entirety of the middle part of the period, with the Flames peppering the Stars’ net and spreading out their in-zone coverage. With a little over five minutes to go in the period, the Flames had opened up a healthy 12-3 shot advantage.

At the five-minute mark, Dallas had arguably their best shift of the period as Blake Comeau forayed into the Calgary zone, and slid a pass through to Radek Faksa that narrowly missed an open Flames net. The Stars began to stack shifts together after the Faksa chance, as the Jason Spezza line with Justin Dowling and Valeri Nichushkin drew the first power play of the night when Nichushkin was hauled down in the slot.

The power play was not an effective one to start as the first unit could not establish any zone time, but who needs zone time? Alexander Radulov sprinted from the Dallas end and undressed the entire Calgary penalty kill for a beautiful coast-to-coast power play goal to put the Stars up 1-0.

The Stars ended the period in impressive fashion, not allowing the Flames a shot on goal in the final five minutes of the frame.

Shots: Dallas 9, Calgary 12
Score: Dallas 1, Calgary 0

Second Period

The Flames started the period buzzing around the Stars and their net. Bad zone exit attempts by the Stars reloaded the Flames offense, as they funneled pucks off the wall and into shooting positions to take aim at Bishop. The Stars attempted to counter and put together a good shift after the opening moments, but ceded all good feelings by taking a penalty courtesy of an interference call against Jason Spezza.

The Flames instantly established control of the puck on their power play, slicing passes through the Dallas penalty kill, but not registering much of a shot on goal. The best chances of the Calgary power play came on the backend of the attempt when the Flames went interior with the puck, only to have Bishop repel the shot attempts. All in all, the first kill for the Stars was perfect, allow minimal chances for a dangerous offensive group.

As the period eclipsed past the halfway mark, the Stars seemed comfortable playing a counterattack type game, with the Flames carrying the play for the majority of the first 10 minutes. The Stars worked to establish some chances of their own as the period progressed, with the best coming via a wrister from Radulov that found blocker and fell harmlessly to the ice. What the Stars were able to do more often in the second half of the period was beat the Flames forecheck. The Flames opted to chip the puck behind the Stars defense and attack with speed, but the Stars were up to the task by making crisp exit passes and countering with their own forecheck up the ice.

Second periods on the road continued to be unkind to Ben Bishop, when, at the six-minute mark, he left the game with what appeared to be a lower body injury.

As newsworthy as the Bishop exit was, the remainder of the period on the ice was the exact opposite. The Stars and Flames were not able to generate much on the offensive side of the game, with the puck being kept to out of the middle of the ice for the most part. As the period wound down and questions abounded for the status of Ben Bishop, the Stars carried a 1-0 lead into the third period.

Shots: Dallas 19, Calgary 22
Score: Dallas 1, Calgary 0

Third Period

The third period began with some more difficult news for the Stars on the injury front when word came down that Justin Dowling was out for the night with an upper body injury. The period also began with Anton Khudobin back in the Dallas net for Bishop, almost assuring that Bishop’s night had come to a premature end.

Still scoreless entering the third, the Flames countered with some line juggling as head coach Bill Peters went to the well looking for offense. The Stars started the period by playing suffocating defense, not allowing the Flames’ new combinations on offense any room on the ice in which to move and create.

The first five minutes ticked off of the clock without much action to speak of by either side. The Stars were able to activate their cycle when they did get behind the Flames forecheck. However, the cycle was unable to funnel pucks to dangerous areas of the ice in the Calgary zone. On the other side of the rink, the Flames’ best chance came via rebounds and activating their dangerous defense corp. To the Stars’ credit, Khudobin was able to answer each chance, even when the Stars defense cracked every so often.

The period reached the halfway mark with the Dallas defensive posture dictating the pace and outcome of the period. The Stars back-checked relentlessly, while also competing for each puck that found the stick of a guy in a red jersey. The Stars also demonstrated some dogged effort in the offensive zone, with Radulov spinning and turning through Flames defenders, and eventually earning a power play for the Stars when Derek Ryan took a slashing minor.

The power play again started quite terribly for the Stars, as the first unit was not able to really establish anything in the offensive zone. However, the second unit got their chance and cashed in. The Flames were weak in trying to exit with the puck, which left Spezza open to direct it towards the Flames net. The Stars funneled a couple shots at Flames netminder David Rittich, before it eventually squirted out to a wide-open Miro Heiskanen, who deposited the puck into the net for a 2-0 Dallas lead.

With under six to play in the game, the Stars found themselves in some penalty trouble as Roman Polak was forced to sit with a minor penalty for roughing. The kill began well for the Stars, with the team sailing the puck out of their own end rather easily. It wasn’t until the second half of the advantage that the Flames set up their power play and tested Khudobin, who was square to the chance. The Stars killed the power play while giving up only two shots, plus a goal-saving play by Ben Lovejoy in front of Khudobin to keep it 2-0 in favor of the Stars.

The Flames pulled Rittich with two minutes remaining in the game for the extra attacker. Calgary quickly set up their offense, wiring pucks at the Stars net until T.J. Brodie finally broke through for Calgary with Khudobin scrambling in the crease. Brodie’s goal cut the Stars’ lead to 2-1. Following the goal, the Flames again pulled their goaltender, and applied pressure in the Dallas end as the clock ticked under 30 seconds left.

Despite a frenzied offensive effort in the final seconds by the Flames, the Stars survived the onslaught for a 2-1 win and two critical points in the standings.

Final Shots: Dallas 23, Calgary 36
Final Score: Dallas 2, Calgary 1

The Stars continue their road trip tomorrow night against the Edmonton Oilers. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. CST.