DALLAS – With disappointment still evident in his expression, Elias Lindholm was asked why he was still optimistic the Calgary Flames could score their second and final chance to eliminate the Dallas Stars.
“We’ve been a good team all year,” Lindholm said, minutes after his club’s emotional 4-2 loss in Game 6 at the American Airlines Center.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of character and one of the best goalkeepers in the league. And we have home ice cream, so we’re excited.
What they probably won’t have is their best defender, Chris Tanev.
Early in the second period of a game with more swings than a Tilt-A-Whirl, Tanev left the game and did not return after the Stars’ second goal.
With Oliver Kylington stumbling on the ice after being walked around, Tanev tripped over his defensive partner and lay on his stomach as he slid towards the Flames net. While reaching out with his left arm to try and steer the puck off the goal line, Michael Raffl rammed the puck in as he and Joel Kiviranta fell on Tanev’s upper body.
In one of his shorter press conferences, Darryl Sutter clearly wasn’t going to address Tanev’s status or what it might mean.
Michael Stone did.
“It just means everybody has to step up and try to do what they’re doing, and they’re doing a lot for this hockey team,” said Stone, whose local cult status grew with his first playoff goal. since 2017.
“So it’s going to take six guys to step in and contribute.”
They’ve done it in committee all year, so why not again for Game 7 on Sunday in Calgary as the club hopes to end its seven-year wait for the second round?
The problem is, that committee of six may also include Connor Mackey if the league chooses to suspend Nikita Zadorov for a neutral-zone hit on Luke Glendening minutes before Tanev was injured.
The hit caught Glendening’s head, looping the Stars forward, who were gone for the remainder of the period before returning to the bench after clearing concussion protocol. However, he told the coach that he couldn’t play due to a lower body injury and just wanted to stay with his teammates to watch.
In a match that featured a high level of hatred between the two clubs, Zadorov immediately skated past the Stars bench to exchange words with an angry group.
There was no penalty on the play, but how the NHL security department proceeds will be interesting.
“Referees are put in a difficult position sometimes,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said.
“It’s easy for us to watch the video, slow it down and say it’s a head shot. The referees sometimes don’t get the best angles, so you live with their call.
And so, Flames fans will once again be put to the test.
A team that has only made it past the first round twice in three decades will have another chance to eliminate a qualified team that returns to Calgary with nothing to lose.
The pressure is squarely on the Pacific Division champions to take a talented roster with nine guys who have never won a playoff series and close the deal.
“I know we’re not supposed to keep playing,” shrugged, playing the underdog role, even though his club had beaten Calgary two years earlier.
“We are supposed to be on a golf vacation at the moment, but that was not our intention. We didn’t come into the playoffs to be someone else’s stepping stone to the second round. We’re there, we’re going to Game 7, so our guys deserve a lot of credit.
They certainly do, especially after the Flames gave them every reason to panic midway through the second period when they saw their 2-0 lead vanish thanks to goals four minutes apart from Mikael Backlund and Stone.
However, towards the end of the period, Miro Heiskanen pulled away from Matthew Tkachuk on point, came in and beat Jacob Markstrom from 40 feet.
Two nights after making their first third-period comeback in a playoff game since 2015 (which is the last time the Flames advanced a round), the Flames were unable to break through in front of Tyler Seguin’s empty net. .
The Flames had the better first period and slightly more dangerous scoring chances in a game that featured much more open pushing, but when it mattered most, Jake Oettinger and a stifling Dallas defense shut the door. An Erik Gudbranson shot off the post early in the third was as close as the Flames got to equalize.
The Flames are now 7-17 in Game 6 and will host their first Game 7 since 2006 when they lost to Anaheim.
The Flames have lost six of the last seven Game 7s they have played, which of course doesn’t matter.
“It was a game from hell, I just couldn’t equalize,” said a seething Sutter.
“You have to win a game. It takes a lot. Some guys are still learning how much it takes. I said it yesterday and this morning.
Stone said his club traded too many chances with the Stars, but when the group returns to Calgary on Saturday afternoon, they will do so by blocking their latest loss.
“It’s a seven-game streak for a reason – sometimes it doesn’t go all the way, but it’s three games apiece and it comes down to one,” said Stone, who saw both goalkeepers perform 36 saves in the most entertaining game of the series.
“We still feel good about it. We have ice cream at home. It’s one of the benefits of how we finished the regular season. So we are looking forward to a great Game 7.”