CALGARY — The first NHL goal for 29-year-old Dallas forward Justin Dowling will be a memorable one for many reasons.
For one, it was the winner as the Stars continued their red-hot play with a 3-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night. Secondly, it came in his hometown before a bunch of friends and family. Thirdly, his mom missed it because she was in the Scotiabank Saddledome’s beer line.
“That’s why we’ve got TV and highlights and everything,” Dowling said with a smile. “So she’ll see it eventually. It’s OK. I’m just happy they were here.”
Undrafted out of Swift Current in the Western Hockey League, Dowling has played 495 games in the minors. Wednesday was his 34th NHL game.
“It felt great,” said Dowling, who had just three career assists before the game. “I’ve had a lot of close calls with pucks sitting on goal lines, hitting posts. I think my first game last year I had one disallowed. Long time coming but it feels good. A lot of weight off my shoulders.”
Making it 2-0 at 6:38 of the third period, Dowling toe-dragged around goaltender Cam Talbot and fired from a sharp angle just inside the far goal post.
“Your first NHL goal in your hometown for the game-winner. It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop. “I don’t think you can draw it up as a kid any better… maybe if he was playing for the other team, but I’m glad he’s on ours.”
The unassisted goal on a 2-on-1 came just seconds after the Flames blew a chance to pull even. Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund went back and forth with short passes on a 3-on-1 before Backlund fired wide from directly in front.
“Unfortunately, we had a 3-on-1 the other way and we didn’t bear down when we needed to. Instead of 1-1, it’s 2-0 and that’s just how hockey goes sometimes,” Talbot said.
Joe Pavelski scored twice, including into an empty net, for Dallas (9-8-2). The Stars are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games after stumbling to a 1-7-1 start to the season.
“We’ve had a good little stretch but we’re not out of the woods by any means. We’re one game (above .500). Our team’s got higher standards than that,” Pavelski said.
Sean Monahan scored for Calgary (10-8-3). The Flames lost for just the second time in regulation (6-2-2) in 10 games at home.
“Tight game the whole game. That second goal hurt a little bit when they got it then we got one right back and it’s still a one-goal game. We gave a little bit of a push in the third, but not enough,” said Calgary winger Matthew Tkachuk.
Bishop made 24 saves to improve to 6-5-1.
Cam Talbot turned aside 29 shots in the Flames’ net. He falls to 1-4-0.
Talbot was especially sharp in the second period, keeping Calgary in the game in a period in which they were outshot 18-6 but only gave up one goal.
The momentum got going early thanks to a goaltender interference penalty from Sam Bennett. It was on the sixth shot of that power play that Pavelski put a bouncing puck past Talbot.
“I gave up a few too many rebounds in the second period, made myself and some of the guys work a little extra hard, but overall, I made a lot of key saves when we needed it in the second period to keep it a one-goal game heading into the third,” Talbot said. “Just needed that one more save in the third to make it more attainable.”
Monahan’s power-play goal cut Calgary’s deficit to 2-1 at 9:57 but the Flames could not get the game back to even.
The best opportunity of the first period came in the game’s opening minute when Andrew Mangiapane appeared to have Bishop beaten, but he couldn’t get it past the goalie’s outstretched pad.
The Stars will look to keep rolling Thursday night when they play in Vancouver against the Canucks.
Notes: Mattias Janmark (lower body) is the latest Star to be sidelined. He is one of six injured players. Roman Polak (fractured sternum), who missed his 18th game, is closest to returning. Nick Caamano, called up Tuesday from Texas (AHL), took Janmark’s spot… Michael Frolik returned to Calgary’s lineup after being scratched the past two games… Matthew Tkachuk’s eight third period/overtime goals leads the NHL.