Goaltender Chad Johnson Plays a Starring Role as Calgary Flames Make it Four Straight Wins with Victory Over Dallas Stars
Returning to the place he started his National Hockey League coaching career, Glen Gulutzan had no interest in taking a trip down memory lane.
As the former coach of the Dallas Stars, Gulutzan didn’t need to re-visit the type of skill that they have.
Instead, the Calgary Flames head coach provided some bulletin-board material for his own team.
“You can’t open it up against Dallas, they have too many weapons,” Gulutzan said firmly after his club’s morning skate at American Airlines Center. “There’s no question. I believe they have more (weapons) than we do.”
What started out as a chess match ended in a well-earned 2-1 victory for Gulutzan’s Flames as they improved to 14-13-2 and — wait for it — improved to above .500 for the first time this season.
They also captured their fourth straight victory, building on a flawless three-game homestand before arriving in Dallas. They’ll head to Arizona to face the Coyotes on Thursday.
And, to top it off, their power play connected for the third straight game.
Sean Monahan scored the game winner at 9:49 of the final frame, tapping in his own rebound and found the net on a Johnny Gaudreau pass behind the net. The play began with Kris Versteeg carrying the puck inside the Stars zone while Brett Ritchie sat off for holding on Matthew Tkachuk.
But, motivated by many things including their last meeting (a 4-2 loss at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 10), the Flames prevailed.
Chad Johnson was spectacular again, turning aside 29 shots and improving to 11-4-1.
“It gives you a lot of confidence that when you give up some chances, you know he’s going to stop it,” said Flames forward Michael Frolik. “To be successful in this league, you kind of need that. He’s given us great efforts. He’s been unbelievable.”
The Stars hit the scoresheet at the 13:15 mark when Curtis McKenzie blew past TJ Brodie in the neutral zone and skated into the Flames’ territory. The puck went glove-side and in on Johnson, who was starting his fourth straight game.
Cue the “Johnny (Gaudreau) Effect.”
Building on some first-period chances, Gaudreau had an early breakaway which was stopped by Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.
The Flames had a power play shortly after when Radek Faksa was whistled for hooking at 4:57 into the middle frame. But when it was cut short almost one minute later — Troy Brouwer was tagged for slashing — the ice really opened up.
And, for a while, it looked like an overtime period.
“You kind of see it happening,” Johnson said. “It happens in a game. We’ve had that a little bit this year, run and gun. I felt like we did a decent job of managing that. It’s exciting. It’s just not how you want to be playing to often.”
When the Stars turned the puck over, Mikael Backlund was there and fired a shot on net. Gaudreau nearly had the rebound. No dice.
Then, an end-to-end Stars rush. Then, an end-to-end Flames rush which saw Lehtonen make a highlight reel toe save on Gaudreau — another breakaway.
Then, another end-to-end Stars rush which saw Jason Spezza fire a puck over the net.
“That was one of the most wide-open stretches I’ve ever seen,” Versteeg said with a chuckle. “Too bad I wasn’t in on one of them. But it was pretty fun to watch.”
The four-on-four ended. But the breakaways didn’t.
With Dallas enjoying their second power play as Deryk Engelland sat off for cross-checking on Adam Cracknell, Matt Stajan had the team’s second short-handed breakaway of the period. His backhander missed the net.
Finally — FINALLY — the Flames scored on what seemed like their millionth breakaway (which is a big indication on how shaky the Stars defence is).
Alex Chiasson and Gaudreau were able to get a few strides ahead of Dallas defenceman Julius Honka and had a quick game of hot-potato past the Stars blue-line before Gaudreau eventually tapped it in at the 12:19 mark.
Before the period was over, Mark Giordano looked to have made it 2-1 — a slapshot blast from the point. Chiasson provided the screen but the goal was waved off after the officials ruled he’d gone offside first.
Patrick Eaves, the surprise story of the Stars with 10 goals and eight assists, nailed a post in the first minute of the third period. But that was as close they would come, other than a pair of scrums in front of Calgary’s net that appeared like goals. Both were waved off.
So, winning their eighth road game, the Flames now have the third-best road record in the league.
“It certainly gives us some footing,” Gulutzan said. “It gets us back above the water, basically. There’s a lot of hockey left.”