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Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger looks on as Calgary Flames Ice crew making repairs to the glass during the second period against the Calgary Flames in Game 5 of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. The Flames won 3-1 on May 11, 2022.Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

How quickly fortunes can change in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Heading into the third period down a goal Wednesday, the outlook was looking bleak for the Calgary Flames. Despite establishing a new franchise record in a non-overtime playoff game with 54 shots in the Game 4 win on Monday, Calgary had been held to just 16 shots through 40 minutes and was facing the probability of heading to Dallas for a win-or-go-home Game 6.

But a four-minute spell of magic from Calgary’s revamped second line saw the Flames turn the game and series on its head, with Michael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane each scoring once and setting up the other, the latter for the game-winner in a 3-1 victory. As a result, Calgary now heads to Dallas with a chance to advance to the conference semi-finals for just the third time since it won the Stanley Cup in 1989.

“It wasn’t our best second period, not even close, and we had to be better coming into the third,” Backlund said afterward. “We talked about it in the dressing room and we had to come out and, first shift [I got a] good look, maybe not the best pass, but still a scoring chance right on the first shift and I think that created some energy for the group having a good first shift and then we got rolling.”

History will be on Calgary’s side when it takes the ice on Friday, too, with the Flames enjoying a .700 winning percentage in the 10 series in which it won Game 5 to break a 2-2 deadlock in a best-of-seven.

Head coach Darryl Sutter knows that getting a win at American Airlines Center on Friday will be easier said than done, however, particularly for the large number of his players who have yet to taste playoff success.

“Well, Game 3 is a lot tougher than winning Game 2, and a lot of our players have never won a Game 3, so Game 4 will be a lot tougher than Game 3,” he said.

For the second straight game, Sutter decided to dress 11 forwards and seven defencemen, with Brett Ritchie once again the odd man out once again Wednesday, with Sutter choosing to stick with the formula that produced a crucial win.

Sutter’s counterpart, Rick Bowness, chose to shuffle his own deck following Monday’s loss. Despite accounting for 232 points during the regular season, Bowness decided to break up his top line for this game, replacing Jason Robertson with Michael Raffl on the left wing alongside Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski, who led the team with three goals and four points.

But while the 67-year-old coach hoped that the move would reinvigorate his offence after just one goal in Game 4 – and hopefully inject more speed and aggression into their play - he stressed the importance of getting back to the defensive effort that had served his club so well in the first three games.

“We have to play defence first,” Bowness said Wednesday morning. “We get offence from defence. [If] we try to go chance for chance for these guys, it’s in [Calgary’s] favour. We created enough scoring chances last game to win the game, we just gave them too many.”

However, scoring chances were few and far between right off the bat on Wednesday. For the second straight contest, the two teams battled to a scoreless opening 20 minutes, with both squads combining for just seven shots apiece.

In a series that had proven to be the most miserly in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, with both teams accounting for just seven goals each before Wednesday – easily the lowest totals among the 16 postseason participants – there was some symmetry to be found in those first-period totals, even if the beauty was sometimes hard to ascertain.

Given the goaltending talent on display though, perhaps it was hardly that surprising.

Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who was named as one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender on Tuesday, led the NHL in shutouts this season with nine, and already has one postseason shutout to his name this spring. With a .952 save percentage and 1.27 goals-against average, Markstrom has carried over his regular-season brilliance to the playoffs.

At the other end, Jake Oettinger, in his first playoff series as a professional, has been arguably one of the stories of the opening round, posting a .960 save percentage and a 1.53 GAA.

After making 50 saves in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss to the Flames, Oettinger was called on early once again here to stymie a Matthew Tkachuk breakaway.

At the other end, the newest addition to Dallas’s top line, Raffl, dug the puck out in the corner and found Marian Studenic alone in front, but Markstrom stood tall to deny him.

Calgary found chance creation an uphill slog for much of the night.

Just like in Monday’s tilt, fans had to wait until after the midway point for the game to come to light. Unfortunately for the sellout crowd inside the Saddledome, it was Dallas who managed to ignite first. Reacting positively to his demotion, second-year winger Robertson – who had a team-high 40 goals during the regular season – took a pass from Jamie Benn and while his initial shot was saved by Markstrom, it caromed off Noah Hanifin and in for the first Stanley Cup playoff goal of his career at the 13:21 mark of the period.

Given that the team that scored first had gone on to win the first four games of the series, the goal certainly took much of the air out of the building.

But entering the most important period of their season, the Flames quickly showed that they weren’t going down without a fight, with Backlund drawing a pad save from Oettinger just 13 seconds in.

The Flames finally found the breakthrough with 13:11 remaining in the game. Though Oettinger managed to stuff Blake Coleman in close, Mangiapane seized on the rebound, wheeled around and found Backlund on the edge of the crease, giving the Flames’ longest-tenured player a simple tap-in to knot the score at 1-1.

“When Back scored, right, you just hear the building erupt,” Mangiapane said. “I think the fans are waiting for a goal and that was a big goal that Back scored there and [the building] just kind of blew up and I think our whole team just fed off that energy from the fans.”

That noise gave the Flames with a new lease of life on the ice, allowing them the freedom to attack the Dallas goal with greater pace and purpose.

Having set up the first goal, Mangiapane then powered in his first goal of the 2022 playoffs with just under 10 minutes remaining, taking a pass from Backlund and firing a wrist shot that beat Oettinger with its sheer pace. Nikita Zadorov also picked up an assist on the goal.

Mangiapane’s first points of the 2022 playoffs were a reward for a player who had seen his ice time decrease in each game of the series as he struggled to produce.

“I think there’s a lot of ups and downs throughout the series,” he said. “That’s why playoff hockey’s great, right? You never know when the momentum is gonna turn. You can’t get too high, can’t get too low obviously but you just got to sometimes weather the storm.”

The Flames certainly did that down the stretch, as loud chants of “Go Flames Go!” filled the arena as the clock slowly wound its way down to zero. Naturally, it was far from plain sailing, and the Flames had to rely on Markstrom with just over two minutes to go when the puck found its way to the stick of Joe Pavelski, who already had three goals in these playoffs. But the Vezina candidate got his pad on the shot to preserve the victory, before Trevor Lewis followed up on Johnny Gaudreau’s wayward effort at the empty-net to guarantee it.