Gaudreau’s heroic OT winner lifts Flames past Stars in thrilling Game 7, advances to 2nd round

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The Calgary Flames won a playoff series for only the second time in the last 17 years with a 3-2 overtime victory Sunday against the visiting Dallas Stars in the seventh and deciding game of their series.

Johnny Gaudreau scored the winning goal in overtime at 15:09.

He grabbed a rebound and placed a hard-angled shot on Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger, who made 61 saves in the game.

“You dream of stuff like that, scoring in game seven in overtime,” Gaudreau said.

The Flames will face the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference semifinals in Alberta’s first postseason battle since 1991. The series begins Wednesday in Calgary.

“I’ve been here nine years and I’ve never had the opportunity to play them in the playoffs, so it’s pretty special,” Gaudreau said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, good for the province, a lot of fun for them, for us. It’s going to be a pretty cool series.”

Gaudreau’s goal was his second of the series after scoring on a penalty shot in Game 4. His assist on Tkachuk’s goal was one of six.

“Johnny’s had a really good streak,” Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said.

Tyler Toffoli and Matthew Tkachuk scored their first goals of the series for the Flames. Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 26 shots and had an assist in the win.

Jamie Benn and Vladislav Namestnikov scored for the Stars.

We believed in each other,” Benn said. “I thought we could win the series. Game 7 overtime. Was just a shot.”

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Johnny Gaudreau scored in the first quarter of overtime to give Calgary a 3-2 victory over Dallas, winning the series 4-3

After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 when Calgary lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning – 2005 was a lockout year – the Flames did not win another playoff series until 2015 when Calgary was ousted in the second round by Anaheim.

Calgary (50-21-11) headed to this year’s playoffs the highest seed atop the Pacific Division, while Dallas (46-30-6) earned the top wildcard spot in the conference.

Little postseason success in recent years, the Flames were under considerable pressure to win the first Game 7 in 16 years before a sold-out sale at the Saddledome, and back up a stellar regular season with some post-season progress.

Calgary outshot Dallas 52-23 in three periods Sunday, but the score was tied before the first overtime of the series.

“We deserved to win,” Sutter said.

Oettinger stopped Gaudreau at his door near the 11th minute of the third, followed by Markstrom stoning Jacob Petersen on a breakaway.

The Flames equalized in the second period on Tkachuk’s goal a second after a Dallas minor expired.

Markstrom headed the puck to Gaudreau, who got rid of Tkachuk on a hard-angled shot into the top corner at 8:44.

Namestnikov made it 2-1 for Dallas just 31 seconds after Toffoli tied the game.

Namestnikov wristed Markstrom off a side pass from Joe Pavelski at 2:17.

Toffoli tipped Oliver Kylington’s shot just inside the blue line at 1:46.

The Flames outshot Dallas 17-8 in the first period, but the visitors led 1-0 on Benn’s goal 40 seconds after the face-off.

Tyler Seguin on the net side fed Benn into the middle slot and the Stars captain beat Markstrom on the stick side.

Dallas was without first-line center Roope Hintz (upper body injury) and forward Luke Glendening (lower body) for Game 7. Forward Radek Faksa (upper body) did not play the third period on Sunday.

Calgary’s top defenseman, Chris Tanev, was also ruled with an undisclosed injury.

Nearly half of the 2022 Flames had never won a playoff round, while the Stars were steeped in that experience after losing to the Lightning in the Cup Final two years ago in Edmonton.

Guardians impress

The series was a showcase for goaltenders.

Buoyed by a breakout performance from Oettinger, 23, and a punishing defense around their turf, the Stars managed a 10-goal even-strength offense in seven games.

Markstrom saw less rubber than Oettinger, but made acrobatic, timely saves to give his team a chance to win every game and held off the Stars when Dallas pressed early in the extra period.

The Stars boasted more recent experience in Game 7 after edging the Colorado Avalanche in overtime two years ago to reach the conference final.

The series was a showcase of goaltenders for Markstrom and 23-year-old Oettinger. Sutter called the latter “the best player in the series, for sure”.

“I played a hell of a game. I haven’t seen many like this. Without him we wouldn’t have been close to extra time,” Benn said of Oettinger. “He’s a phenomenal young goalkeeper. He will be great for this organization for a long time.

But Sutter has coached plenty with his 8-3 record now unmatched by any other NHL coach in wins.

Calgary opened the series with a 1-0 win and a 2-0 loss at home before earning a split at American Airlines Center.

The Flames then won 2-1 at home and lost 4-2 in Dallas to send the series back to Calgary for the final.

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