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Stars embrace identity, alter narrative in Game 6 win over Flames to stave off elimination

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 4 days ago Matthew DeFranks, The Dallas Morning News
Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness behind behind the bench at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Jan. 22, 2021. © Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America/TNS Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness behind behind the bench at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Jan. 22, 2021.

DALLAS — The Dallas Stars altered the narrative — and now they’re heading back to Calgary.

During a 4-2 Stars win over the Flames in Game 6 of the first round on Friday night, the Stars hung on to a one-goal lead in the third period, staving off elimination and setting up a decisive Game 7 on Sunday night in Calgary.

Sunday night’s game will begin at 8:30 p.m. CT at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The winner will play the winner of Saturday’s Kings-Oilers Game 7.

Miro Heiskanen scored the game-winning goal during a busy second period, and Jake Oettinger was again a rock for the Stars, making 36 saves, including 18 in the first period.

Roope Hintz and Michael Raffl also scored for the Stars, building a 2-0 Dallas lead before goals by Michael Stone and Mikael Backlund tied the game in the second period. The Stars entered Friday night with three 5-on-5 goals in the series against Jacob Markstrom. They scored three through the first two periods of Game 6.

Tyler Seguin added an empty-net goal with 41.5 seconds remaining.

Heiskanen stepped up with his first playoff goal since the 2020 bubble in trademark fashion. He shimmied to the middle of the ice, dispatching Matthew Tkachuk along the way and stepped into the slot. Using a trio of teammates as screens, Heiskanen beat Markstrom over his right shoulder.

Friday’s finish kept the Stars alive, but it also helped purge the taste of a blown third-period lead during Game 5 in Calgary.

On Wednesday night, the Stars held a 1-0 lead in Calgary, but watched as the Flames came at them in waves. Dallas lost control of the neutral zone that is suffocated in the first 40 minutes. It struggled to possess the puck. In turn, the Flames scored three unanswered goals to capture a 3-1 win that put the Stars on the brink Friday.

“We know where we are,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said before the game. “Embrace it. That’s the only way you can do it. The Mavericks come in here last night, they’re going back to Phoenix.

“Our goal is to come in here tonight and go back to Calgary for Sunday night. Embrace the challenge. You can’t be afraid of it, man. It is what it is. We put ourselves here. Dig our way out.”

In Game 6, the Stars successfully held the Flames at bay. Mistakes didn’t populate their play with the puck. Coverage wasn’t shoddy. They didn’t ask Oettinger to be perfect, as they had in previous game against the Flames.

The Stars also survived a second period full of questionable officiating.

Chris Tanev’s high-sticking penalty was ruled a minor penalty (and not a double-minor) despite Joe Pavelski spitting up blood in front of an official. Nikita Zadorov’s hit to the head of Luke Glendening went unpenalized despite an extended elbow.

Glendening left the game and entered concussion protocol before returning to the bench. He did not play a shift in the third period.

Even Ryan Suter’s interference was a ticky-tack call. As Suter’s penalty expired, Backlund scored, banking a shot off of Heiskanen.

The Stars found enough offense to nullify any advantage gained by Calgary.

Midway through the first period, Bowness reunited the Dallas top line of Jason Robertson, Hintz and Pavelski. He split them up for Game 5 and the start of Game 6 to try to jumpstart Robertson, and balance the team’s scoring across multiple lines.

The trio went right back to its old ways. It had the team’s best shift in the offensive zone when reassembled, then later struck on the rush when Hintz beat Markstrom between the legs.

Raffl made it 2-0 after a net-front scramble created by Joel Kiviranta’s drive to the net. Kiviranta’s initial bid left a rebound in the crease for Raffl to poke home.

“Don’t look for the perfect shot,” Bowness said. “Don’t look for the perfect play. I always tell the players: shots create scrambles. You shoot the puck and there’s a scramble. It breaks down structure. We need more shots to break down their defensive structure.”

Stone cut the Stars lead to 2-1 off the rush on a feed from Johnny Gaudreau. Backlund’s third of the series with 8:01 left in the second period tied the game.

The Stars, notorious for third-period collapses this season, shut it down in the final 20 by continuing to attack the Flames.

Now, they can advance to the second round for the third straight postseason with one more win — and further change the narrative of average team meant as first-round fodder for the Pacific Division champions.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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