Rookie forward Connor Zary provided something to smile about.
By the end of the night, however, there was more frustration for the Calgary Flames.
Zary scored on just the third shift of his NHL debut, but the Dallas Stars ultimately escaped the Saddledome with a 4-3 victory Wednesday, handing the Flames a sixth consecutive loss.
The locals remain 31st in the overall standings with a miserable 2-7-1 record.
Andrew Mangiapane and MacKenzie Weegar were the other marksmen for the Flames in their latest loss, while Jake Oettinger racked up 44 saves in the visiting crease.
Zary, at least, looks like a guy that the C of Red can get excited about.
The Saskatoon-raised forward was recalled after a scoring start with the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers and what was always going to be a special night turned especially sweet when he tickled twine at the 5:28 mark of Wednesday’s opening period.
The new guy in No. 47 was cruising toward the net when a wrist-shot from Chris Tanev bounced off a couple of bodies, then plunked Zary in the pants and dropped in the blue paint. The 22-year-old reacted quickly, shoving the puck across the goal-line and then letting out a loud scream and pumping both fists in celebration as his teammates rushed over to offer their congratulations.
While Zary sniped his first as an NHLer, Mangiapane nudged closer to a milestone of his own.
When he picked the top shelf early in the second stanza, the 27-year-old Mangiapane notched the 99th goal of his career. Next stop, triple digits.
Stars captain Jamie Benn always seems to find the scoresheet against the Flames, averaging a point-per-game in 41 career contests against the Calgary-based crew, and he continued that trend with a shorthanded strike at the end of the first period. Flames starter Jacob Markstrom was ready to retrieve the puck behind his own net, but it stalled in the snow as he waited patiently inside the trapezoid. Markstrom had to retreat to his crease, and Roope Hintz dished to Benn for a too-easy finish.
The Stars’ second of the evening was an unlucky sequence for both Weegar and Markstrom. Weegar jammed his stick in the lane as Jason Robertson unleashed a shot, but his twig went flying and his netminder was fooled by what was less of a fastball and more of an off-speed pitch.
Robertson’s goal started a run of three unanswered for the out-of-town team. Evgeni Dadonov scored a bar-down beauty and then Mason Marchment polished off a pass from Matt Duchene.
While Weegar trimmed the deficit with a power-play marker early in the third period, benefitting from a double deflection off a pair of opponents, that’s as close as the Flames would get.
The hosts racked up 22 shots on net in the final frame but couldn’t buy another. Among their best chances, Zary dances around defenceman Jani Hakanpaa and nearly buried on a deke to his backhand, while Esa Lindell managed to clear a puck from the goal-line with only 54 seconds remaining.
On X: @WesGilbertson
Wes Gilbertson and Danny Austin have been covering the Flames for years and know what makes the team tick. Have questions? They have the answers – or the contacts to track them down. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org