The Dallas Stars didn’t let an early 3-0 deficit distract them from their objective in Game 6. They rested on their confidence and resilience and used it en route to a 7-3 torching of the Calgary Flames to close out the first-round series.
They were planning ahead for the seemingly inevitable after the Flames unloaded a three-goal assault on the Stars in the first 6:34 of Game 6. They looked like a team ready to stave off elimination and seemed to have Dallas pinned in a corner. The probability of a series-deciding Game 7 seemed all but definite.
That is, until the Dallas Stars reminded us that the words “probability” and “inevitable” are not included in their vocabulary.
They proved that with an onslaught that included seven unanswered goals, a historic four-goal night for Denis Gurianov, more heroics from Miro Heiskanen, an impressive effort from Anton Khudobin in the crease, and a 51-minute push that not only shattered the Flames’ confidence and hopes, but also provided a pulsing surge for the Stars as they move into the second round.
It all began with a Dallas timeout after Rasmus Andersson scored with 13:26 remaining in the first period to put the Flames up 3-0.
“The mood wasn’t good and we hadn’t played our game yet,” Joe Pavelski said about the timeout. “It was one of those moments where everyone understood that we haven’t played our game and we’re seeing their best game. Pucks are exploding off of our sticks at that moment and we’re in a hole. It was a good timeout as far as catch our breath and try to get back to our game.”
Luckily for the Stars, they had become so well-versed with adversity throughout the first five games (and in the 2019-20 season as a whole) that the timeout was simply a chance for the leaders of the team to step up, address the situation, and get the team back on track.
“Fortunately, we have good leadership on this team,” Rick Bowness said. “They could all see what we could see. It was just a mess to start. There comes a point where, ‘Okay, that’s enough.’ We need the next goal and if we get the next goal, we’re back in the game. Fortunately, that’s what happened.”
Less than two minutes later, Milan Lucic headed to the box on an interference penalty. And from that point on, the Stars didn’t look back.
“We were frustrated because we knew they would come hard and we should be ready and had been ready. It was frustrating, but we knew that if we scored one goal, we would be right on them. That was a huge goal on the power play. We talked about it in the dressing room after the first period. I think we showed lots of character and after that, I think we dominated in the game.” – Radek Faksa on the Stars’ response
1:24 into the power play, Miro Heiskanen rifled a one-timer home to get the Stars on the board and back within two shots.
“It takes a special player like Miro to step up and, ‘Okay, we need a goal? I’m going to step up here and show up,'” Bowness said.
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“That power play goal was enormous for us,” added Pavelski following the win. “It kind of stopped their push and got us back into that intermission down by two goals. It didn’t really matter how we got there. We weren’t playing our best, so we were allowed to come back out and understand that there’s 40 minutes of hockey left to score a couple of goals and try to tie this up. Obviously, we had a huge second.”
That one goal eventually turned into six more as Dallas tore the game open at the seams, overwhelmed the Flames at every turn, and took control of the game in a matter of minutes.
“I said in his first year that this kid has Norris Trophy written all over him. Tonight, as a coach, you need someone on your bench to step up and say, ‘Okay, jump on my back. I’m going to get this thing turned around.’ Miro did that for us tonight. He got that big power play goal for us and he settled things down. You could see early in the game that we couldn’t make a five-foot pass. All of a sudden, Miro just took the game over. He’s an exceptional player, he’s an exceptional person, and he does have Norris Trophy written all over him.” – Rick Bowness on Miro Heiskanen
Gurianov scored two goals in the first 3:25 of the second period to get the Dallas Stars back to even. That was enough to force Cam Talbot from the game (though it would only be a short break for the goaltender) and bring David Rittich in for his first taste of Stanley Cup Playoffs action.
The Stars simply treated the substitution as another golden opportunity. Radek Faksa scored on the power play less than three minutes later, and was followed up by Joe Pavelski’s sixth postseason goal (he is now tied for the most among NHL skaters along with Gurianov, Anthony Beauvillier, Nazem Kadri, and Bo Horvat) and Gurianov’s third to secure his first NHL hat trick.
HAT TRICK, DENIS GURIANOV
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By second intermission, the inevitability had pulled a 180 and rested entirely in the Stars’ corner.
Talbot was back in the crease for the third period, and Gurianov made sure to leave him with one more parting gift as he scored his fourth of the game midway through the final period.
“Boys just said, ‘Shoot the puck,'” Gurianov said. “I’m glad I got a hat trick and I’m glad we won. That’s the most important thing moving forward and getting ready for the second round.”
But amidst Gurianov becoming the second rookie in NHL history to record four goals in a playoff game, Heiskanen’s clutch showing that included one goal, three assists, and 25:50 of ice time, the Stars rallying from their first three-goal deficit in the playoffs since 1985 (when they were still the Minnesota North Stars), and a seven-goal charge that buried any hope that Calgary had of getting one more game, don’t forget that this Dallas Stars team has been riding this wave of confidence for the past week.
“It should help, clearly with four goals and an assist. He was like the rest of us. We had a tough first period. Give him credit because he battled back like the rest of the team. Hockey is an amazing game sometimes because when you’re hot like Denis was all of a sudden, the puck is right on your stick at the right time. There was a couple of broken plays, like his fourth goal with nothing going on, the puck is bouncing around, and it’s right on your stick. Those nights don’t happen very often. But Denis, as we all know, is going to be and is a special player. He had one of those nights, and good for him.” – Rick Bowness on Denis Gurianov’s performance
The Stars were the better team for five consecutive games against the Flames. While every game except the last one was close on the scoreboard, Dallas consistently dominated in possession time, scoring chances, and overall energy. They looked charged up with each shift and continually found ways to win and wear down the Flames in the process.
A game-winning goal from Jamie Oleksiak with 40 seconds remaining in regulation after giving up a two-goal lead? You got it. Joe Pavelski finishing his first career playoff hat trick with 12 seconds remaining in regulation in Game 4 to tie the game and force overtime? No problem. A seven-goal surge and 38-41 performance by Khudobin to negate an early Flames’ attack and finish the series? Just another day for this resilient and unfazed Dallas Stars team.
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“I think that going into this series, we had confidence that we could be in this position that we’re in right now,” Pavelski said. “There are ups and downs. That’s playoffs and that’s a series. It was a team that plays hard and were coming out of the play-in round where they played good hockey. It was going to be a big test for us.
“Just confidence and understanding that our game works. It’s a big commitment to play a certain way, but it’s playoffs right now and guys are battling for each other. We came up with some huge plays along the way.”
Game 6 will forever go down as one of the wackiest and most baffling playoff games in Dallas Stars history. Heck, the entire series was wild.
But in the midst of all of the chaos and unpredictability, the Stars are proving that they are a resilient bunch that isn’t ready to leave the bubble yet. Through all of the highs, lows, and corkscrews during the 2019-20 season, the Stars have remained focused on and dedicated to their chief goal.
They’re one stride closer to that goal after throttling the Flames in a dominant cap-off to their first-round series on Thursday night.
“There are a lot of things that have happened,” Pavelski said. “We have a veteran team and there’s some good experience in that room and high character. It’s a group that’s been easy to come into from the outside coming in. There were some crazy moments throughout the year. You just move on and you play. There’s a lot of pride in that room.”