‘No bigger stage’: Gaudreau’s OT goal lifts Flames

NHL

Just call him Johnny Clutch. Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau scored the overtime winner to put Calgary past the Dallas Stars 3-2 in Game 7 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Sunday.

The Flames now advance to the second round for the first time since 2014-15, and it’ll be for a full-scale Battle of Alberta: Playoff Edition against their provincial rival, the Edmonton Oilers.

Tyler Toffoli and Matthew Tkachuk added the other markers for Calgary in the win. Jamie Benn and Vladislav Namestnikov scored for Dallas.

Netminder Jake Oettinger was the Stars’ true MVP, though, making 60 saves as the Flames smothered Dallas with offensive chances. Jacob Markstrom stopped 26 shots at the other end for Calgary.

Benn had the Stars ahead just 40 seconds into Game 7 off a slick feed from Tyler Seguin. That 1-0 lead held until early in the second period when Toffoli broke through to tie the game 1-1.

It took just 30 seconds after that for Namestnikov to give Dallas back a one-goal advantage.

Midway through the second frame, Tkachuk scored his first of the series from a terrific assist courtesy of Gaudreau to knot the game 2-2.

Calgary kept the pressure on the Stars from there, out-attempting them 102-41 late into the third period. Oettinger continuously closed the door, until finally Gaudreau found his way through to win it for Calgary in the extra frame.

This was only the fifth time since 2013-14 that Dallas had reached the postseason, and the Stars were a significant underdog from the start against Calgary. The Stars squeezed into the field with a wild-card bid and were up against the high-flying top seed of the Pacific Division.

Dallas held its own, though, topping the Flames in Games 2 and 3 on the strength of excellent goaltending from Oettinger.

Then Calgary caught fire. The Flames took Games 4 and 5 by a combined 7-2 score, and Dallas didn’t have the output to match. With their season on the line in Game 6, Oettinger pulled out all the stops — 36 of them total — to outduel Vezina Trophy finalist Markstrom and pull Dallas into a Game 7 fight.

The Stars’ top line of Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson was the team’s superpower this year. They combined for 105 goals and 232 points in the regular season and 15 more points in seven playoff games. Slowing them down was the Flames’ first key to victory.

Meanwhile, the Flames’ best unit of Elias Lindholm, Gaudreau and Tkachuk made its presence felt, too, although more so in the series’ second half. That trio added 17 points in the postseason to lead Calgary’s offensive attack, and it was a primary factor again in securing a Game 7 win with five points on the night.

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