March 12 2011 11:22PM
The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL for a reason, and they were the better team on Saturday night, erasing two Calgary leads and eventually topping the Flames 4-3. It was Vancouver's fourth win against Calgary this season, and it's the first time since January the Flames have lost consecutive games in regulation. Calgary wasn't poor by any stretch, but they just weren't as good as their opponent on this night.
This was about as good a start as possible for the home side, as the Flames were on the board just 2:14 into the first period, and it was a great individual effort from Mikael Backlund. As Mikael Samuelsson collected the puck around his own blueline, trying to buy time for a Vancouver change, Backlund dogged him and eventually stripped the puck from him. With Aaron Rome chasing off the bench, Backlund would put a move on Roberto Luongo before going shelf on the Canucks goalie for a 1-0 Calgary lead. It was 2-0 Flames at 3:32 when Matt Stajan put home his sixth of the season on a goal mouth scramble, and it was once again caused by a strong Calgary forecheck. And then the ice started to tilt. Mark Giordano was called for hooking, and the Canucks cashed in in short order, with Ryan Kesler firing one past Miikka Kiprusoff at 8:48. Vancouver would keep firing shots on net for the rest of the period, and scoring chances finished 7-5 in favor of the visitors.
The second period was much the same off the hop, with the Canucks controlling the play and earning the majority of the offensive zone time. Midway through the frame, Vancouver would tie it, with the Sedin's working their magic and Daniel eventually finishing off a Henrik pass...it was 2-2 and seemed all downhill for Calgary after that. Except the Flames regained the lead 68 seconds later, on yet another goal mouth scramble and a poor showing from Luongo...David Moss would hammer home his 17th, and somehow Calgary had a one goal lead. But things went right back to even at 15:41, and it was the Sedin line on the ice and Alex Burrows tipping home a Daniel shot. The final goal of the game would come in the second period as well, and guess who...Daniel f'ing Sedin for number 37 on the year, on the doorstep, on the powerplay. After 40, Vancouver lead 4-3.
The Canucks had yet to lose when leading after two periods, in fact, only three times had they gone to overtime when carrying a lead into the third period. So, cue the perfect display of how to protect a lead, allowing just two even strength chances the entire frame, and limiting Calgary to ZERO on a late game powerplay. 4-3 is your final score.
One Good Reason...
...why the Flames lost? They're just not as good a team as the Vancouver Canucks. The visitors flexed their muscle in the second period, because they could, and it worked. There's no reason to hammer on the Calgary effort tonight, because this wasn't a poor effort. The Flames had some nice spans in this game, but the Canucks slowly took over this game after falling down 2-0, and they controlled the final 50 minutes of this game.
For our good friends over at hitthepost.ca, we give it to Mikael Backlund. He was pretty good for a second straight night, offensively running the show on a few different occasions when he was on the ice. Defensively he was very strong as well, breaking up a couple Vancouver fast breaks by a tenacious back check. I've been a big Backlund fan all year, and he's been really good the last two nights...plus he scored that goal.
Sum It Up
So, the Flames have lost back to back regulation games, and there is a strong possibility they'll be out of a playoff spot the next time they play. Calgary plays Phoenix on Tuesday night, and everyone knows how important a game that is. But let's not lose perspective here...Calgary has 11 games to go, with 14 points needed to likely make the playoffs. 7 wins in 11 games isn't impossible the way things have gone for this team.