Good luck. Those two words are all that are needed in response to the task of shutting down the Calgary Flames’ top trio.
Much of the talk heading into Tuesday night’s NHL playoff series opener between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars has been about each team’s most productive line.
Flames coaches and players have raved about Joe Pavelski and the talented duo, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, that accompanies him on the Stars’ first unit.
“It’s a good line, first off,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said this week. “Pavelski’s a proven player I’m obviously very familiar with from the Pacific Division. Their kids are skilled players (putting up) numbers.”
They didn’t put up many numbers in Game 1, however, with the Flames coming away with a smothering 1-0 win. After an exciting first period, the game took a disjointed turn. A penalty box parade took away many of the matchups. Both teams had to battle for every inch and Jacob Markstrom only had to make 16 saves for the shutout victory.
The Flames carried the play for most of the first period and led 11-3 on the shot clock and 1-0 on the scoreboard.
It was the Calgary Flames’ big line that did the damage, although that came on the powerplay.
Elias Lindholm scored his first of the playoffs after posting a career high 42 in the regular season. The Selke Trophy candidate won the faceoff cleanly in the offensive zone but it came back to him quickly as Matthew Tkachuk touched it over to Johnny Gaudreau, who found Lindholm for the trademark wrister finish.
They had a couple of other opportunities but weren’t able to pad the lead despite leading 9-0 in shots through the first 11 minutes of the game.
The first intermission changed the dynamics with Tkachuk bringing his friendship tour to the playoffs. The Calgary Flames winger hammered Stars defenceman John Klingberg into the boards and jostled with Michael Raffl for a bit as time wound down. Raffl was looking for redemption for the Klingberg hit and Tkachuk obliged.
The spirited scrap ended and another began, with Klingberg challenging Rasmus Andersson.
Unfortunately for Andersson and the Flames, the acceptance of that secondary scrap meant an automatic game misconduct.
Yes, the Stars also lost Klingberg. But missing Andersson for 40 minutes was not part of the game plan to suppress the damage the Stars top line could do – not to mention Andersson’s 50 points in the regular season.
Picking up where the buzzer beatings left off, the second period action was full of infractions and severely stalled the flow of the game.
A wild third period saw both teams miss on some good chances, with desperation kicking in for the Stars and a bit of impatience on the part of the Flames.
Their net empty with two minutes remaining, the Stars made their final push. But the Flames snuffed them out to the delight of a loud and appreciative crowd that hit heavy decibels as the time ran out on the clock.
Fittingly, it was the Calgary Flames’ top line that sealed it, killing the clock with some gritty work along the boards.