CALGARY – With just 73 combined goals over 1,720 career games, it’s a rare occasion when either Cory Sarich or Steve Staios is an offensive star.
They both played that role Wednesday night for the Calgary Flames.
Goals just over two minutes apart from the rugged defenceman broke a 2-2 third period tie and sent the Flames to a 4-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Sarich gave Calgary the lead at 2:35 on the defenceman’s third goal of the year, a snap shot into the top corner from just inside the blue-line.
“I don’t score them very often so when they really mean something, it makes it that much more satisfying,” said Sarich.
Then, with the Flames short handed, Staios took Rene Bourque’s pass and rifled a 40-foot slapshot past Kari Lehtonen for his second goal of the season.
“I saw Bourque going down the wing and I knew that they were tired so I jumped up into the play and I got it and I shot it as hard as I could,” said Staios, playing his just his fifth game since Dec. 5 due to a combination of injuries and being a healthy scratch.
Dallas coach Marc Crawford was incensed at his team after Staios’s goal, pulling Lehtonen immediately and replacing him with Andrew Raycroft. However, Lehtonen returned to the net after the next stoppage.
“On the short-handed goal, we can’t make that play. The game is right there, it’s in the balance, we’ve got to be smart on that,” Crawford said. “You’re trying to tie it with 15 minutes to go and you don’t have to. You just have to keep doing things right. We’ve got to get that through our thick skulls.”
Olli Jokinen and Tom Kostopolous also scored for Calgary (30-22-8). Thanks to a 10-1-2 run, the Flames moved into a five-way tie for fourth place in the Western Conference, one point back of the third place Phoenix Coyotes.
As the only NHL team to have played 60 games, however, the teams they’re even with hold either two or three games in hand over the Flames, as do the pack of teams chasing them.
“What’s giving us success over the past little while here is we’ve been taking one game at a time and not getting too caught up in the standings because as you know, it’s ninth to fourth in any given night,” said Staios.
The Flames are 6-0-2 in their last eight at the Scotiabank Saddledome and have four more to go on a five-game homestand—although the next game will be outdoors at McMahon Stadium. Calgary hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday in the Heritage Classic.
Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Langenbrunner scored for Dallas (31-21-6). The misfortunes continue for the Stars, who were without leading scorer Brad Richards for the second game after he was shaken up in a collision on Sunday. Dallas is 1-6-1 in its last eight and has lost six straight on the road.
“We’re going through adversity right now and it’s going to make our team stronger. Every team goes through it,” said Stars defenceman Stephane Robidas. “You look at Calgary early in the year and they were one of the worst teams in the league and look where they’re at right now.”
By the time Dallas wraps up its road trip Saturday night in Vancouver, they could be out of a playoff spot for the first time in several months.
“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie to you, but we can’t focus too much on the standings and what’s going on. We have to find our game and get back to the team that we were early in the year,” Robidas said. “Early the in the year, we found ways to win games. Now we’re finding ways to lose games. That’s been the main difference.”
Calgary outshot the visitors 16-3 in taking a 1-0 first period lead. However, the Stars played better in the second period while also getting the benefit of some fortuitous bounces.
The Stars tied it at 7:21 on a pinball-like goal from Ribeiro.
Ribeiro whipped a shot towards the net from the corner that changed directions off the stick of Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr and then bounced in off the shin of Jokinen.
The Stars took the lead at 10:47 on another strange one. James Neal’s shot towards the net went off Bourque’s stick and straight to Langenbrunner in the slot for his sixth goal.
Calgary tied it at 14:09 when Kostopolous tipped in Bourque’s slapshot for a power play goal.
“Another hard lesson for us tonight. It was better, there was no doubt about that, but at the same time we can still work harder and there’s a lot more for us to give and we have to push to get it,” Crawford said.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 22 saves in his 12th consecutive start. He improved to 26-19-4.
Lehtonen had 27 stops to fall to 23-17-6.
Notes: Dallas D Stephane Robidas played in career game No. 700… The Stars next win will be their 700th since moving to Dallas to begin the 1993-94 season. Only Detroit (801) and New Jersey (731) have recorded more regular season victories since that point… Since the Flames assigned Ales Kotalik to Abbotsford (AHL) on Jan. 27, the 32-year-old has no goals and six assists in seven games… Calgary LW Curtis Glencross saw his five-game goal scoring streak come to an end… Calgary improves to 14-4-5 since Darryl Sutter stepped down as General Manager and was replaced by Jay Feaster.