Blake Coleman was looking to make an impact for his Calgary Flames, but not like that.
In his return to his home state – a first for him in the NHL playoffs – Coleman found himself in a terrible spot to watch the Dallas Stars’ winning goal.
The penalty box.
Officials have been calling everything and more in these NHL playoffs so far. Coleman got caught slashing Joe Pavelski in the third period.
Pavelski made him pay with his second goal of the night and third of the series to give the Stars a 4-2 win in Game 3 and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Flames-killer has been a force – owning the game-winner in both Stars victories – with his net-front presence and ability to get open.
On the winning play, a pair of Calgary Flames got caught covering someone else and defenceman Noah Hanfin wasn’t close enough to prevent Pavelski from pouncing on Vladislav Namestnikov’s rebound and flipping it into the open side of the net past Jacob Markstrom.
Markstrom kept Flames close in second
Markstrom was a major reason the Flames were still even with the Stars at that point, with the Stars testing him repeatedly over the second half of the middle frame.
Pavelski’s heroics spoiled what was a bit of a breakthrough for the Calgary Flames in the series.
The Flames had scored zero five-on-five goals against the Dallas Stars over the first two games of their series.
And the sharp money was not on Trevor Lewis to be the first to accomplish that feat.
But Lewis came through with one of those gritty goals the Flames players talked about getting on the road in Game 3. Milan Lucic went to the net and tip-toed through Jake Oettinger before swatting the puck at the goaltender. The rebound was there for Lewis and he made sure to get it past the sprawling rookie netminder.
Oettinger went down in the (mild) collision with Lucic, but the contact was initiated outside of the crease by the goalie himself, and a review confirmed it was a good goal.
Improved offence gave Flames hope
It was an important one, too. Radek Faksa gave the Stars an early lead with his top-corner tip of Esa Lindell’s shot 8:21 into the first. Lewis answered just over five minutes later.
The Calgary Flames’ previously snakebitten scorers seemed to be energized by that secondary contribution.
One of their usual suspects gave the Flames the lead early in the second period, with the top line connecting for its first even-strength goal of the series. Elias Lindholm netted his second of the series from his favourite spot in the high slot.
The play was typical top-line magic, with Matthew Tkachuk digging the puck out along the boards and Johnny Gaudreau firing a perfect pass to Lindholm for the crouching one-timer.
Pavelski would not be outdone. The Stars sniper shook off coverage from Calle Jarnkrok on Jacob Markstrom’s doorstep and scooped up a rebound from Miro Heiskanen’s point shot. Pavelski just doesn’t miss from that close.
Coleman predicted challenge
Coleman knew it was going to be a tough test.
He said earlier in the day he wasn’t worried about the lack of scoring from his side.
“I’m not overly concerned,” Coleman said after the morning skate. “Obviously, one goal in two games isn’t the road map to success here, but on the flip side of that, we’ve been a good checking team.
“We’re a few plays away from scoring goals here and once guys start to make these plays and confidence goes, it’s one of those things where it will start to snowball. As the series goes, you’re going to learn teams’ tendencies and figure out ways to dissect that matchup and find ways to produce offence.”
The Calgary Flames got a little more offence, but still had a tough time beating Oettinger. The best of his 39 stops on the night was a stellar kick save on a Gaudreau breakaway late in the third period.
“Give them credit, they’ve been a really good team so far and have made us fight for every inch of space. It will be no different tonight,” Coleman said earlier.
“But you’ve got to bring that extra 10 per cent this time of year. And guys have to find ways to get there and battle for goals.”
They’ll get their next chance on Monday in Game 4 at the American Airlines Center.