The Calgary Flames may not have had Matthew Tkachuk in the lineup for Game 3 of their First Round series against the Dallas Stars on Friday night, but they did have Cam Talbot.
Turns out, that was all they needed.
Talbot turned aside all 35 shots he faced to record a shutout in a 2-0 Flames win that gives them a 2-1 series leads.
Mikael Backlund‘s shorthanded goal goes in the books as the game-winner for the Flames, while T.J. Brodie added a late insurance marker on a booming slap shot. But even with those two goal scorers, Talbot was the star of this game for Calgary in what was a big bounceback performance for the starting goalie.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Talbot got the start in the Flames’ Game 2 loss on Thursday, surrendering five goals in what was probably his worst game of the postseason so far.
Despite that, Flames coach Geoff Ward decided to stick with his starter in the back-to-back situation (sometimes a risky call) and Talbot was more than up to the task by recording his second shutout of the playoffs (and the fourth of his career).
It continues what has been an outstanding performance for him in the NHL return to play. Outside of Game 2 on Thursday he has been one of the Flames’ most valuable players and has played his way into the (very) early Conn Smythe discussion.
It is not an exaggeration to say he was the single biggest difference maker on Friday.
Even though the Flames ended up getting the upper hand on the scoreboard, they were probably not the better team overall as the Stars carried the play for much of the night. Dallas held a pretty commanding territorial edge and seemed to get the best of the chances. But sometimes all you need to get a win in the playoffs is to have the better goalie, and that is what the Flames had on Friday.
They also should not apologize for it. This was a tough spot to be in playing a back-to-back without one of their best players. Maybe it was not their best overall effort, but if you are going to go on a deep run into the playoffs you sometimes need to find ways to steal games where you do not have your “A” game.
Tkachuk did not play for Calgary after being a game-time decision. He was injured on Thursday when he was hit by Jamie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak. There is no word on his status for Game 4 on Sunday.
No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames (Flames lead series 2-1)
Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Stars 5, Flames 4 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Flames 2, Stars 0
Sunday, Aug. 16: Dallas at Calgary, 2 p.m. ET – CNBC
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Calgary at Dallas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.