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Seventh Heaven for Stars is Hell for Flames

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The Calgary Flames might have gone from playing with seven defencemen to having just five.

As part of a disappointing Game 6 outcome in Dallas, where the Flames lost 4-2, they also now face a reality for Game 7 that doesn’t include Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov.

Tanev was hurt in the second period and didn’t return. Zadorov hit Stars forward Luke Glendening in the head with a high check and could be facing discipline from the NHL.

That sidebar might be the most worrisome story of the night. It was unexpected.

The Calgary Flames did anticipate a strong game from the Stars as the hosts faced elimination at the American Airlines Center.

They got it.

Especially from goaltender Jake Oettinger, who to this point has the edge on Vezina finalist Jacob Markstrom in the head-to-head battle between the pipes.

Oettinger stopped 36 of 38 Flames shots on the night.

“It was a hell of a game. We couldn’t get the equalizer,” Calgary Flames coach Darryl Sutter said – twice – after the game.

He knew the pressure would be on his less experienced squad to close out the series. They’ve got another shot at it on home ice on Sunday evening. It’s what they battled so hard for in the regular season.

“You’ve got to win a game. It takes a lot,” Sutter said of getting that fourth win. “Some guys are still learning what it takes. I said it yesterday and I said it this morning. Same thing.”

Oettinger steals the show again

The 23-year-old rookie Stars goaltender continues to baffle Flames players regularly.

Oettinger was literally unbeatable over the first 20 minutes, with the Flames pressing hard for the opening goal. Defenceman Michael Stone was the closest to twitching the twine with a trademark rocket that Oettinger turned away with the blocker.

But Stone wasn’t the only one to feel that sting.

Oettinger stopped all 18 shots he faced in the first period.

On the other side, Markstrom faced much less rubber but couldn’t escape the period unscathed. The stellar Swede got caught with an overexposed five-hole on a hard, flat shot from Roope Hintz.

“I thought he was alright,” Sutter said of his goaltender post-game. “If we’d have won, he’d have been better than alright.”

After being outplayed by a large margin in the opening period, the Stars made the kind of push you’d expect from a team facing elimination in the second period.

Michael Raffl scored his second of the series as disaster struck for the Flames.

Rookie blueliner Oliver Kylington got outmuscled by Joel Kiviranta and crashed to the skating back to his net. His slide took out partner Tanev, and Kiviranta and Raffl were able to take multiple swipes at the loose puck.

Worse than the goal was the aftermath, with Raffl piling onto the prone Tanev at the side of the net after poking the puck in. Taking the forceful landing of the stick to the back of his head, Tanev tried to keep going, but left the game for good.

There was no update on his condition from Sutter after the contest.

Flames tie game in second period

The Flames dug deep despite that loss in the second frame.

Seventh defenceman Michael Stone came up huge to give the visitors some life. He scored his first of the playoffs on a stellar setup by Johnny Gaudreau on an odd-man rush 8:09 into the period.

Four minutes later, Stone was the one drawing the assist on the tying goal.

The man with the cannon shot from the point held up and instead of letting a long one rip, found Mikael Backlund in the circle. Backlund’s hard shot found a hole on Oettinger for his third of the post-season.

The tie didn’t last long, however, with the Stars continuing their quest for survival.

Miro Heiskanen found a pocket between a falling Matthew Tkachuk and a sluggish Nikita Zadorov and snapped a perfect shot past Markstrom – who never saw the puck through traffic.

The Flames couldn’t recover.

Markstrom kept them in it during a frantic first half of the third period. He made a highlight-reel kick save on Joe Pavelski to keep the deficit to one.

The Calgary Flames netminder also stoned Hintz, and had both Tyler Seguin and looking skyward in frustration and disbelief.

But the Stars were determined and a Tyler Seguin empty netter sealed the Game 7 matchup.

“It was a hard-fought game. It obviously stings right now, but we’ve just got to regroup,” said Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson. “I thought we created enough to win the game.

“Now we focus on the next game.”

It’s the biggest one of many of their careers.

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