Flames rally late to steal 4-3 shootout win over Dallas Stars

 

Calgary was trailing 3-1 with under seven minutes left to a team that has twice hammered them this season

 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames goalie Joey MacDonald (35) makes a save against Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, as Flames defenseman TJ Brodie (7) watches in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, March 14, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)
 

Calgary Flames goalie Joey MacDonald (35) makes a save against Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, as Flames defenseman TJ Brodie (7) watches in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, March 14, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

Photograph by: Sharon Ellman, AP

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DALLAS — Joey MacDonald hadn’t played an NHL game since Nov. 1st.

Hadn’t won one since Oct. 11th.

But mirroring the team in front of him Friday night, the pride of Pictou, N.S. never stopped battling. He may not be in the Calgary Flames’ future, but in a way, he as much as anyone, symbolizes their here and now.

Never give in. Never surrender.

“Yeah, it’s been a while,” acknowledged MacDonald, stellar both early and late in an improbable come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win over the playoff-contending Dallas Stars. “It’s just great to get another opportunity to come back again, with 15, 16 games left, to show I can still play in this league.

“A month ago I didn’t think that was going to happen. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

“When you’re playing in the best league you get noticed. For me, if it’s not going to be here, at least there are 29 other teams watching. When you go down to the American Hockey League there are scouts around, but it’s not the same as being on TV every night and 30 scouts watching from different teams, different leagues.

“Everything’s better-looking up here.”

What had gone from implausible to impossible became reality when rookie Corban Knight, showing no freshman jitters, cashed the Calgary Flames’ fourth shootout attempt against Tim Thomas to cap the comeback.

“Instant nerves,” admitted Knight. “It’s amazing how fast my body reacted. An instant after (coach Bob Hartley) tapped me to go, my body started shaking.

“That’s basically the only move in my repertoire, so it’s kinda nice that it worked the first time.”

In the shootout, MacDonald continued his heroics, stopping Calgary-killer Jamie Benn, Colton Sceviour and Tyler Seguin, beaten only by defenceman Jordie Benn.

Rookie Sean Monahan, needing to score to keep his team alive, critically cashed the Flames’ third SO attempt, setting the stage for Knight.

“Great third period,” praised Hartley. “Great comeback. We never quit and that’s why this group is so special. They keep going. They don’t care about the situation or what the score may be.”

And his recently-turned-34-year-old fill-in goaltender?

“Lets face it, Joey MacDonald has been very good for us, right from the start. Remember what he did for us at the end of last year. This year we had Reto (Berra) a younger goalie, but Mac went down, never said a word, kept working and he played a big, big part in our win tonight.”

The Flames looked completely done, trailing 3-1 with under seven minutes left to a team that had eviscerated them twice this season — 5-1 here and 7-3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. But out of somewhere, the tenacity that’s become their hallmark this rebuilding season emerged again. Trailing 3-1 MacDonald produced a series of early third-period stops — most notably shutting the wickets to deny a Tyler Seguin breakaway — to prevent the deficit from getting out of hand. It may not have seemed so at the time, but those saves proved to be decisive.

“That’s my job,” shrugged MacDonald. “We were down by two, so you don’t want to give them that third one because that’s going to kill you. So you know what? Just try to make the big saves at the key times.”

“He’s got that mentality,” praised two-goal man Mike Cammalleri. “He’s just going to battle. he’s like your best buddy who’s a street-hockey goalie and makes the saves you need. Early I thought he was really good and at the end.

Que the comeback when Cammalleri, hanging tough against the bigger, stronger Trevor Daley to the right of Dallas goaltender Tim Thomas, slotted home a rebound at 15:30 of the third period for his second goal of the night to bring the Flames all the way back from oblivion, 3-3.

Calgary has proven to be a plucky, persistent lot and had whittled the Dallas lead to one via the game’s only power play, a three-foot backhand Curtis Glencross pass from the side of the net — Stars’ D-man Kevin Connauton off for delay of game — giving Paul Byron an empty net to navigate at 12:51.

The Flames are in Phoenix on Saturday night to conclude a short two-stop road hop to face off against the playoff-chasing Coyotes.

On an emotional evening, the Stars’ first home date since the scary incident involving Rich Peverley on Monday, the home side failed to hold up its end of the bargain. Peverley received a standing ovation from a AAC crowd that only four nights earlier had gone silent, sick with worry, as he had to be resuscitated by an emergency medical crew after collapsing on the bench due to an irregular heartbeat.

Peverley leaves Sunday for a consultation at the renowned Cleveland Clinic in the next step to maybe — possibly, hopefully — returning to the game.

From a Flames’ perspective, the night belonged to the immensely-likable MacDonald. It had, as he admitted, been a while.

“I think the way my career’s gone, up and down, the never-quit mentality, helps me,” he reasoned. “This year was a tough one, getting sent down . . . It took a lot out of me, took a lot to get back playing good.

“I struggled down there.

“You’re at the National Hockey League level and being my age, well, you look around and it’s a young league.

“Funny, though, what an opportunity can do for you. If I would’ve just hung my head and not cared, I might not have ever gotten back here.”

gjohnson@calgaryherald.com

Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH

 
 
 
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Calgary Flames goalie Joey MacDonald (35) makes a save against Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, as Flames defenseman TJ Brodie (7) watches in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, March 14, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)
 

Calgary Flames goalie Joey MacDonald (35) makes a save against Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43), of Russia, as Flames defenseman TJ Brodie (7) watches in the first period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, March 14, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

Photograph by: Sharon Ellman, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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