The Flames were oh-so-close to taking command of their playoff series against the Stars on Sunday but lost their grip.
Joe Pavelski of Dallas scored the tying goal with 12 seconds remaining in the third period, and Alexander Radulov won it 5-4 late in the first overtime to even the best-of-seven engagement at two victories each.
The 36-year-old Pavelski scored two other times for the first hat trick in 141 postseason games in his NHL career. Game 5 will be Tuesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for Western Conference teams.
Cam Talbot was brilliant in Calgary’s net, recording 57 saves. His teammates didn’t provide much help, taking five penalties in a row in the second and third.
There were five lead changes, 102 shots on goal, 86 faceoffs, 73 hits, 40 blocked shots and 11 penalties taken in the highly entertaining game. The Flames won Game 1 and Game 3 and were poised to put Dallas in a difficult position. But then the Stars dug down and gritted it out.
“We played a good game,” said Geoff Ward, the Flames’ interim head coach. He was selected for the position when Bill Peters resigned early in the season. “That’s the beauty of the playoffs. How could you watch that and not enjoy it?”
Sam Bennett, filling in for the injured Matthew Tkachuk, had two goals for Calgary. Johnny Gaudreau had his first of the series, and Tobias Rieder tied an NHL playoff record with his third short-handed goal in one series.
A year ago, Reider did not have a single goal in 64 games with Edmonton.
“I feel great for him,” Ward said. “He continues to have big moments for us.”
Calgary had a chance to take an early lead when a hard wrist shot by Sean Monahan was turned back by Anton Khudobin two minutes into the game. It was one of his 36 saves.
Alexander Radulov, who missed an open net in Friday night’s 2-0 loss to Calgary, did it again with the Stars on a power play with 16:51 left in the first period. Another chance went awry when Esa Lindell banged one off the crossbar.
The Stars went on the power play when Elias Lindholm was called for cross checking, and scored only 11 seconds later when Pavelski poked one past Talbot 1:49 before the first intermission. It was the first time Dallas scored the first goal in 12 games, dating back to the regular season.
The pace picked up dramatically in the second 20 minutes. Jamie Oleksiak, the Stars’ 6-foot-7 defenceman, was called for delay of game after shooting a puck over the glass in his own end one minute 18 seconds in.
During a scramble in front of the goal mouth, Gaudreau shovelled a backhand over the sprawling Khudobin to tie the game 1-1 only 36 seconds later.
Momentum shifted quickly back to the Stars when Pavelski walked in on Talbot on a two-on-one and ripped a wrist shot past him to put Dallas back ahead 2-1 with 16:46 left in the second. It was the 10th multigoal playoff game of Pavelski’s career.
Oleksiak was called for another penalty – this time, tripping – and the Flames converted on the power play again. Bennett blistered a slapshot past Khudobin to tie it 2-2, 43 seconds later.
In a period of just more than two minutes, the teams traded three goals.
Calgary took its first lead with 5:10 left before the second intermission when Bennett scored on a rebound off a shot by Milan Lucic.
Denis Gurianov of Dallas then knotted the game 3-3 with a power-play goal only 37 seconds before the teams would return to their dressing rooms for a break for the second time.
Rieder put the Flames back ahead at 4-3 short-handed a little more than three minutes into the third. The Stars nearly tied it with 2:29 left, but a goal by Jason Dickinson was negated because Corey Perry interfered with Talbot in the crease.
But then Pavelski tied it, and Dallas finally wore Calgary down for the deciding goal by Radulov, which had originally been credited to John Klingberg.
Before he scored, Gaudreau missed two excellent chances to put the game away.
“It’s unfortunate,” Gaudreau said. “We just have to put it behind us and move on to the next game."
To win the series, the Flames will need to play with more discipline. They were called for seven penalties.
“I looked at them and all seven of the calls were right,” Ward said. “We have to better than that.”
Calgary’s players were disappointed but not downbeat after the loss.
“It’s tough to lose, no matter how it happens,” said Mark Giordano, the Flames captain.
“At 2-2, we are in a perfectly good situation here,” Bennett said.
A year ago, the Flames were eliminated in the first round by the Colorado Avalanche. They were 12 seconds from going up 3-1 this time.
“We’ve got nothing to be ashamed about,” Ward said. “A lot of good things happened for us out there. We are sawed off at two wins each after four. These are the type of games everyone dreams about when they are a kid. It’s awesome.”