Stars Engulfed by Flames, Series Now Tied 2-2

And Jake Oettinger deserved better.

The series was back in Texas tonight for game 4 between the Dallas Stars and the Calgary Flames. After taking a series lead on Saturday night, the Stars enkindled that most dangerous of all emotions in their fans: hope. And it was that hope that was completely dashed by the rest of tonight’s events.

First Period

The first period was Jake Oettinger’s to lose, because that’s how much pressure the Stars’ lack of offense put on the netminder. Thankfully, for the first period at least, Oettinger was more than up to the challenge.

At 1:33 in the hockey game, Vladislav Namestnikov took a penalty for an illegal check to the head against Johnny Gaudreau. Now, Gaudreau’s head certainly got rocked, but the hit was a clean shoulder-to-shoulder. Still, two minutes for Namestnikov and Gaudreau played at least one shift on the power play before going down the hall to the dressing room for concussion protocols.

The Stars killed the power play and at that point (yes, this changed later) the Flames were a solid 0-12 on man-advantage opportunities.

Jani Hakanpää went down the tunnel too, Andrej Sekera was skating during warm ups and ended up being a late scratch. Esa Lindell and John Klingberg were briefly reunited before Hakanpää returned.

The closest the Stars came in the first to a goal was Miro Heiskanen ringing the crossbar.

Gaudreau came back from the dressing room after Heiskanen’s crossbar ding and before Jake Oettinger made the save heard ‘round the NHL.

Absolutely filthy. The Flames had 19 shots this period, almost one shot per minute, and Oettinger kept all of them out. The Stars have an unfortunate way of crumpling like a house of cards in front of a hot goaltender and that was certainly the case over the rest of this hockey game.

Noah Hanifin took a holding penalty against Heiskanen and the Stars managed zero shots on goal in those two minutes.

And then, mercifully, the first period ended.

Shots: Stars 8, Flames 19
Goals: Stars 0, Flames 0

Second Period

The Stars began the second period much as they began the first, on another weak call, tripping this time, against Jamie Benn.

During the penalty kill, the Flames took a cross checking penalty against Michael Raffl, putting both teams at 4-on-4 again, then 42 seconds of power play time for the Stars. Those 42 seconds were better than the entire two minutes from the first period, so it was nice to see the improvement.

Raffl dinged the pipes off a pass from Klingberg, but it was offsides anyway and would not have counted even if it had been on course. Then the Stars took another penalty as Hakanpää went off for tripping. And then they took another one when Radek Faksa took a high sticking penalty against Gaudreau.

So. The Flames ended up with 1:43 of 5 on 3, which of course is the way they finally burst whatever force field Oettinger had put up between himself and the net.

And then they still had 43 seconds of power play.

The Flames ended up with a long period of possession during which the Stars were completely unable to clear the puck from their zone, resulting in some astronomical shifts for the players caught on the ice. Two of the Stars were tripped but for reasons no one could fathom, this didn’t result in any calls.

The Stars did finally clear the puck only for it to be an icing call. Andrew Mangiapane tripped Jason Robertson on the face off and finally, the refs remembered that’s a penalty even when the Flames do it.

Not that the Stars scored on the power play, but Robertson got a commercial long break before starting on the power play.

Shots: Stars 22, Flames 39
Goals: Stars 0, Flames 1

Third Period

This period did not start with a Dallas penalty, instead it started with Namestnikov with perhaps the Stars best chance of the night, except that Markstrom was down on the other end of the ice pulling a Jake Oettinger as well, and the puck didn’t get through.

Raffl drew another penalty, which lead to Oettinger facing off against a 3-on-1 shorthanded attempt, which he dealt with like a pro. Unfortunately, on a later breakaway by Gaudreau, Klingberg hooked him to break up the attempt and Gaudreau scored on the ensuing penalty shot. Yes, in these playoffs, a penalty shot.

And then Elias Lindholm scored an insurance goal on the Flames 50th shot on net.

After which, Backlund took a penalty for elbowing Heiskanen, who got jumped by Matthew Tkachuk but didn’t engage, so Tkachuk took the roughing penalty. Jamie Benn jumped Backlund, who also did not engage, so Benn took a roughing penalty. Somehow this ended up being 5-on-4 for the Stars.

With more than five minutes still to go and on the power play, the Stars pulled Oettinger for the extra attacker, and Tyler Seguin scored the dignity goal.

Raffl was called for hooking, then Backland was called for holding, then the Flames scored the demoralizing empty netter.

Shots: Stars 35, Flames 54
Goals: Stars 1, Flames 4

Jake Oettinger’s save count is a new record for the Stars in the playoffs. It’s not much of a takeaway for this game, but given the saves he made, the Flames’ score could easily have been twice what it was.

The series moves back to Calgary for game five on Wednesday night. Puck drop to be determined, but expect it to be late for mountain time.