The Dallas Stars saw their 2021-22 season come to a close on May 15 in Calgary with a 3-2 overtime loss, but it was no fault of second-year goalie Jake Oettinger.
“He was the best player in the series,” Flames coach Darryl Sutter told the Atlantic of the opposing goalie.
Dallas and the Flames needed an extra frame of play on Sunday in Game Seven of the first round of the Western Conference playoff series. With 15 minutes to play in overtime, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau slapped the game-winner past Oettinger after Oettinger made an initial save on a shot by Elias Lindholm from the slot.
In his first career playoffs, Oettinger made 64 saves and became only the second goalie to make 60 or more saves in a Game Seven since 1955, when shots-on-goal were first tracked. (In the 1987 Eastern Division Semifinals, Kelly Hrudey saved 73 shots for the New York Islanders.)
Oettinger set a new franchise record, beating out Ben Bishop, who held the Stars playoff record with 52 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game Seven against the St. Louis Blues in the second round in 2019.
“We have a franchise goalie, no question,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “You go into overtime with Jake, you know it is going to take a perfect shot to beat him, and it was a perfect shot. Johnny made a great shot, right under the bar. You can’t do anything about that. but Jake Oettinger is a franchise goalie, and the good news is he will keep getting better.”
Dallas struck first in the best-of-seven final game, getting a goal from team captain Jamie Benn just 40 seconds into the first period (assists on the play came from Tyler Seguin and Ryan Suter.) Oettinger pitched a shutout in the first period leaving the Stars with a 1-0 lead with 40 minutes to play.
Calgary evened the score 1-1 when Tyler Toffoli scored a goal, but less than a minute later, Vladislav Namestnikov scored his sixth career playoff goal to retake the lead for Dallas, 2-1. Both Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson earned assists on the goal, each tallying their third of the series.
The Flames once again evened Game Seven with a goal from Mathew Tkachuk at the 8:44 mark of the second frame heading into the third period with the two teams tangled in a 2-2 tie.
Both Oettinger and Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom played perfect third periods to send the game into overtime.
Gaudreau’s OT goal ended the season for the Stars.
Dallas was outshot in the game 67-28 — 17-8 in the first period, 43-12 after two, and 52-23 after regulation, and Calgary had a 15-5 shot advantage in OT — and Dallas’ team captain said the game wouldn’t have been that close without the play of his net-minder behind him.
“He played a hell of a game,” Benn said. “I haven’t seen too many like that. I mean, if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t even have been close to overtime or having a chance to win.”
“I’ve never been more motivated than I am right now, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that I get this opportunity again,” Oettinger said.