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Dallas Evens Series with 5-4 Overtime Win Behind Joe Pavelski Hat Trick

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(Alex Radulov may have tipped in the winner, actually)

Dallas Stars v Calgary Flames - Game Four Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

I’m still not sure I have words for this game.

To have one game-tying goal disallowed, then another—a Joe Pavelski HAT TRICK goal—also be submitted to a review for offside with 12 seconds left? I mean, that’s just a landslide of emotional turbulence, and a lot of teams better than Dallas have crumbled after such a cavalcade of heartbreak.

This season—this decade—has really been a painful one to be a Stars fan. You know the details, from the bankruptcy to the Game Sevens to the Bad Contracts to the Draft Busts and so on, and so on.

Sports are about moments, though. The “where were you when?” sorts of instances. And once your team gets into the playoffs, all you’re really hoping for is a series of moments strung together.

But who knows how these playoffs will play out? In all likelihood, the Stars won’t win every game from here on out. But right now, on Sunday, we watched the Stars pull off a wonderful, almost impossible victory in overtime.

It wasn’t easy to watch—as if this team has ever been that, in recent years—but it was worth the effort, and then some.

We’ll talk more about it later. Hopefully I’ll catch my breath by the time we record the next podcast later this evening. For now, go ahead and read about how it all took place. There’s a lot in these almost 3,000 words, and yet it feels like there’s so much more I didn’t even touch on. What a game. What a game.

***

The news this morning was all about Ben Bishop and Matthew Tkachuk both being deemed “unfit to play” for health reasons we are not allowed to know:

It meant Anton Khudobin would have to continue his strong play, but then again, that’s nothing new for this team, right?

First Period

The period opened with a pretty standard Dallas Stars approach, which is to say a couple of icings and some nice saves being required of Anton Khudobin. Calgary, as a result, jumped out to a 5-0 lead in shots on goal. (Note: for Dallas Stars fans who might be unfamiliar with this term, this is where a player shoots a puck that does not miss the net.)

However, the Stars would earn the first power play after Sam Bennett got whistled for interference on a Flames’ offensive zone faceoff. Alex Radulov had a couple of great chances from the right circle on the first half of the advantage, but one was stopped, and the other one saw the puck glance off a sliding block from Calgary and deflect high on its way towards a gaping net. Radulov would also get a great one-time chance at the end of the same power play, but Cam Talbot stood strong to stymie the Stars.

Mattias Janmark returned the penalty favor right afterwards, with a slight by silly slash on Dillon Dube that is going to get called in the first period of every hockey game in existence when it gives the officials a chance to return the penalty favor to even things up. Thankfully, the Stars’ PK came up big, with Janmark capping it all off by creating a great chance for Esa Lindell when he stepped out of the box. Lindell, as per accepted Dallas Stars procedures, then put a wrister from the point off the bottom of the crossbar.

Jamie Benn has been having trouble finding a way to impact the game in this series, but you may recall his cup check on Matthew Tkachuk s evidence of his alternative approach to do so. Halfway through the first period of this one, Benn employed similar means towards Dillon Dube, slashing him in the neutral zone, away from the puck and right in front of the benches. The officials didn’t miss it, and Benn would put the Flames back on the power play with the poor decision. The Stars’ PK, however, once again mopped up the mess, and things moved along.

The pace picked up later in the first, as Radek Faksa would get perhaps his best scoring chance of the series later on. Faksa came in as the trailer in what started as a 3-on-2 rush led by John Klingberg, but Faksa—stop me if you’ve heard this one—missed the net.

Taylor Fedun then put a puck smartly on net after a vintage Tyler Seguin rush through the neutral zone and drop pass, after which Seguin put the rebound (which Talbot probably shouldn’t have allowed) through the Calgary goaltender’s pads, but not cleanly enough for the puck to continue on into the net.

The Flames’ top line has had its struggles in this series (and the FCC line probably deserves more credit than they’ve gotten for that), but you can’t really blame anyone else when you put a grade-A chance like this one late in the first period right into the logo of Khudobin:

And, as happens so often in hockey, a missed opportunity at one end was followed by a converted one at the other. The Stars would finally get on the board as they got their second power play of the game after a cross-checking penalty by Elias Lindholm. Then, Joe Pavelski collected the rebound from a pile in front of the net after a John Klingberg point shot from the center of the blue line, and Pavelski slipped it through Talbot to put Dallas up 1-0. That goal also marked the first time the Stars scored the first goal of a hockey game since late February, for those of you keeping score at home.

End of first period: 1-0, Dallas.

Shots on goal: 14-11, Calgary

Second Period

Okay, take a deep breath, because you’re gonna need it to digest everything that happened in this one.

Heck, before the period even began, we found out about some gamesmanship from Calgary:

If there’s any goalie you wouldn’t expect to be rattled by that sort of thing, though, it’s probably Khudobin.

Perhaps it worked on some level though, as the Flames got another power play early after a rough shift from Jamie Oleksiak that ended with a delay of game penalty (on a puck that Oleksiak sent to the rafters and out—maybe the most impressive such penalty I’ve seen all season).

The Stars got outworked around the net, and Johnny Gaudreau ended up with a pretty simple dunk after a flurry resulted from a puck that Khudobin might have collected on another day.

Things kept moving, though, as an unbelieveable Jason Dickinson chance was shot right into Talbot, only to have Joe Pavelski bury a shot after getting a fortunate bounce on a stretch pass. The Stars’ most clutch player in Edmonton put them back ahead, post-and-in style. 2-1 Dallas.

Unfortunately, Jamie Oleksiak’s second period would continue to deteriorate, as he took another penalty (tripping, this time) to put the Flames on their fourth power play of the game. Then Sam Bennett pulled up and buried a rolling puck on a knuckleball of a one-timer through an Esa Lindell accidental screen to even things back up at 2-2.

Corey Perry almost put the Stars back up after tipping a puck into Talbot and getting a whack at the rebound, but Talbot had an answer for him. Pavelski then got a chance to convert a hat trick attempt at the side of the net, but the sharp angle didn’t quite allow him to get the puck headed into the net, and it hit Talbot in the sternum.

The period really began to sit on a knife’s edge at the halfway point of the game, with both teams exchanges chances on the rush in what Josh Bogorad describe as an “off the rails” sort of feel. Anton Khudobin eventually calmed things down with a slick glove save, however, and everyone was able to catch their breath, for a moment. Just after the midpoint of the game, shots were sitting at an absurd 26-23 for Dallas, if that gives you any idea of what this crazy afternoon game looked like.

Things ramped right back up, however, as Sean Monahan accidentally shot the puck on his own net, after which Blake Comeau leveled Derek Forbort in the corner.

Unfortunately, Dallas’s series of great chances without result would, predictablty, see the Flames bury one at the other end. After a messy sequence with the first line where Radulov eventually split Fedun and Seguin with a pass back to the blue line, Taylor Fedun cleared the puck from behind his own net, only to have the Flames’ best line collect it at the blue line and come right back in with numbers, against Sekera and Fedun. Sam Bennett then beat Fedun to a rebound Khudobin never should have given him, and the Stars were trailing 3-2 just like that.

Andrew Cogliano started a sequence that got Dallas back on the power play with two minutes to go, after the Flames turned the puck over at the end of some tenacious forechecking by Cogliano and Co. Talbot then ended up tripping Comeau, and the Stars had a chance to tie the game up before the end of the second period.

After the first half of the power play passed without much of note, Denis Gurianov capitalized with a lethal one-timer to push the reset button on the contest. (And kudos to Roope Hintz for a nice smooth zone entry to set things up, as well.)

The period ended with some shenanigans, after Sam Bennet took a charging penalty when he jumped into a vulnerable Jason Dickinson along the boards. Andrew Cogliano helped cooler heads to prevail in the ensuing fracas, and the Stars were content to head to the dressing room with a tie game.

End of second period: 3-3 tie. Shots on goal: 29-29

Third Period

Dallas began the period on a power play, thanks to the Sam Bennett nonsense. But they weren’t able to convert, as some hit-and-miss looks never quite materialized, despite a Hintz shot from the wing leaking through Talbot, but not quite thoroughly enough to find the net, and Calgary survived.

The Flames went right back on the PK, however, after a patient John Klingberg stretch pass found Janmark for a breakaway that Mark Giordano subverted by wrapping up Janmark, who still got a shot away, thus negating any talk of a penalty shot.

Unfortunately for Dallas, the Flames’ special teams continued to outplay the Stars, as Tobias Rieder beat Alex Radulov (and the other Stars forward) up the ice to turn a 1-on-1 chance into a 2-on-1 rush, beating Khudobin with ease as the rest of the Stars looked on, helplessly. It wasn’t the best of defense from Klingberg, but it was enough to take care of his man. Unfortunately for Klingberg, no one else followed him up the ice in time to cover the speedy Tobias Rieder, and...

Roope Hintz nearly got the Stars level again with a chance similar to Jason Dickinson’s doorstep effort earlier, but he couldn’t find a way to solve the problem, catching Talbot’s blocker as well as the post, and things continued as they were.

Andrew Cogliano continued to play like a man possessed, however, drawing another power play after Sean Monahan (perhaps unknowingly) caught him up high. It was a crucial moment, with the Stars looking dazed after the shorthanded goal, and Dallas didn’t start this power play much better than the last. They would end it, however, by drawing another one, giving us all hope that the Stars would just continue earning power plays for the rest of eternity. Or, perhaps that was no hope at all, given that the Stars had allowed as many shorthanded goals in the series (three) as they had scored on the power play (three).

Alas, that power play would end as fruitlessly as the prior one, and Dallas stared eight minutes of clock in the face with a 4-3 deficit to deal with. Jamie Oleksiak would get a wide-open chance shortly thereafter, but he perhaps waited a bit too long, and his eventual shot was nothing to write home about (though I suppose that’s exactly what I’m doing, right now).

The painful part of the final stretch is that the Stars were getting great chances. Tyler Seguin, he of one secondary assist through eight games, busted in on a 2-on-1 with 3:30 remaining, and all he could do was put a low shot into Talbot’s pad that was easily kicked away.

For all that, the Stars did tie the game, momentarily, after a Roope Hintz rush turned the corner on the defense. Hintz’s backhand was refuted, but Jason Dickinson stashed the rebound. Unfortunately, Corey Perry skated into Talbot all by himself, and it was enough contact to wash out the goal after Calgary challenged the play. A heartbreaking sequence, to be sure.

So the Stars took a deep breath, and Bowness pulled Khudobin with 2:10 left to play. The Stars poured it on with desperation, and Heiskanen was hooked on his way into the zone early in the sequence, but the officials opted not to give the Stars an eighth power play. (Not that it would necessarily have helped Dallas, given their last few power plays.)

With 45 seconds left, the Stars called a timeout, then sent the big guys back out to finish things up. And, with just a dozen or so seconds remaining, John Klingberg wafted into the low slot and put the puck low and on net, which was exactly what Pavelski needed in order to backhand the rebound past Talbot.

And then, everyone held their breath once again, as the officials announced the unthinkable: Toronto was asking them to take a look at the play for a possible offside call on the zone entry.

It was impossibly cruel, right? To have two goals in a row washed out after the Stars looked to have clambered back into the game against all odds? Would this really be the most fitting sort of heartbreak imaginable, going down 3-1 in the series like this?

No way.

The goal counted.

End of regulation: 4-4 tie. Shots on goal: 50-35, Dallas.

Oh, and by the way:

Overtime:

The overtime started rather ponderously, which is understandable given the stakes, but even moreso the amount of fatigue that had to be present with the teams playing their third game in less than four days. Perhaps that’s why Taylor Fedun got some ice time early on, generating a couple of great Stars chances with some good offensive zone work. It made sense to use whatever fresh legs the Stars could find, even if they weren’t the ones Rick Bowness trusts the most.

Then both ends had just-abouts, with Klingberg getting the puck poked off his stick to set up a Tobias Rieder one-timer, only to have Rieder’s stick fail to seal the deal. Then on the other end, the Stars’ checking line and Klingberg almost generated the winner, but Talbot managed to occupy enough net to foil the Stars’ defensive specialists.

Johnny Gaudreau then had the game on his tape again, as the Flames found a bit of a 3-on-2 against the FCC line, but Johnny Gaudreau’s wide-open chance in the slot was stopped by Anton Khudobin.

Gaudreau got another chance from the same spot a few minutes later, only to have Joe Pavelski get a leg out to block the puck and send it out of play.

Midway through overtime, one thing was apparent: the Stars were playing not to lose. The FCC line was going out there every third shift, and the Flames were starting to tilt the ice as things progressed. Miro Heiskanen was playing every other shift, but it was still a nail-biter every time the puck entered the Stars’ zone, as overtime tends to be in the playoffs.

That said, Roope Hintz got a great chance with about eight minutes left in overtime, but Talbot’s blocker stymied Hintz’s effort from the low circle. It was a noteworthy shift for that chance, but also because it saw both Hintz and Gurianov on the same line, and their forechecking generated the great chance.

But in the end, it would be a broken stick and the Stars’ top line that made the difference. After a Jamie Benn shot in the low slot broke T.J. Brodie’s stick, the Stars successfully kept up the pressure, effectively generating a 5-on-4.5. Esa Lindell quickly realized the situation, and busted to the net. Klingberg then sent a one-timer from Jamie Benn at the net, where it (I think) was tipped by Radulov and past a completely helpless Talbot for the win.

The series is now tied 2-2. The Stars came back from multiple crushing blows in this game, and they somehow found new life. Say what you will about the four goals against, but this was a game the Stars deserved to win, and they did. And it was wonderful.

EDIT: Turns out it was indeed Radulov who tipped it.