January 18 2014 11:43PM
Sometimes a game is just a game. Sometimes it's just three periods of guys fighting over two points in the standings. When one of the teams is as deep down in the standings as the Calgary Flames are, those games sometimes become routine for all involved.
And sometimes, a game kicks off with a freakin' line brawl with five sets of fights on the ice, resulting in eight players getting ejected and all of a sudden, things get pretty damn interesting.
The Flames lost 3-2 in a shootout tonight, in a shockingly competitive game against a team 19 points ahead of them in the standings, the Vancouver Canucks.
The Flames kicked off the game by icing a starting line-up featuring Ladislav Smid, Chris Butler, Brian McGrattan, Kevin Westgarth and the returning Blair Jones. The Canucks, seeing this line-up of Calgary's best and brightest, retorted with Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Tom Sestito, Dale Wiese and rookie Kellan Lain, making his NHL debut. And so, this happened just two seconds in.
Aside from Sestito and McGrattan, who were engaged in the first fight, everyone else got tossed from the game. As a result, both teams had to roll with four defensemen and 10 forwards for the remaining 59:58. The rest of the first period was fairly back-and-forth, with occasional scrums resulting in even more penalties. The two squads combined for zero goals and 178 penalty minutes in the first period. The Flames had a slight edge in shots (11-9), attempts (23-17) and face-offs (7-5) in the first, and Vancouver never really seemed to get their bearings.
During the intermission, Canucks coach John Tortorella stormed the Flames locker room area to give the boys in red what-for regarding the shenanigans.
The second period featured only four penalty minutes – both minors for the Canucks – and two goals! Amazing, eh? Mark Giordano – on one of the two Canucks penalties – scored 97 seconds into the period off a face-off. Just over two minutes later, Ryan Kesler (who took the penalty that the Flames scored after) tipped in a Zack Kassian shot to even things up at one-apiece. The rest of the period was a bit lower event than the first, with many broken plays, turnovers and near-misses. The shots were 11-9 Calgary and the Flames had a 9-7 face-off edge, but shot attempts were even at 18-18.
Mark Giordano's three minor penalties highlighted the third period, where the Canucks seemed to finally get the chance to play their style of game – albeit late, with a tired and bruised bench. The Flames opened the scoring early in the period, once again, with Matt Stajan taking advantage of a feed from Lance Bouma on a broken play (along with a partial screen from T.J. Galiardi and a Canucks defender) to beat Roberto Luongo and put Calgary up 2-1. That lead lasted for the better part of the period, before Vancouver finally broke through on their power-play, taking just four seconds of a Giordano slashing minor to beat Karri Ramo. Yannick Weber got the goal.
The rest of the period was back-and-forth and punch-counterpunch, but with far more of it played in Calgary's end than in Vancouver's. Regulation ended with the game tied at 2-2. Vancouver led in shots (10-8), shot attempts (19-16) and face-offs (12-10) in the third period.
Overtime solved nothing, with Vancouver leading in shots and attempts by a 5-3 margin, and five minutes of play featuring many tired, tired hockey players. Lots of missed passes. Calgary led in face-offs 2-1. Joe Colborne kicked off the shootout like he usually does, with a goal, but the Flames were unable to solve Roberto Luongo subsequently (with Jiri Hudler, Lee Stempniak, Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund failing to score). Yannick Weber and Chris Higgins scored in the skills competition for Vancouver, allowing the hometown squad to skate away with two points.
WHY THE FLAMES GOT A POINT
To be blunt, they were able to sucker the Canucks into playing their kind of game. In a finesse game, the Canucks skewer Calgary. But through hard work, tenacity and some gamesmanship by Bob Hartley, the Flames eked out an overtime appearance and got a point. If John Tortorella doesn't take the bait and instead puts five hockey players out instead of dancing bears, maybe Vancouver executes their game-plan. But the Flames go to San Jose with a point, and the Canucks probably aren't all that happy with their win.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Calgary's blueline has been, to be charitable, “uneven” this year.
So losing two guys two seconds in isn't great. But Dennis Wideman, Mark Giordano, Shane O'Brien and T.J. Brodie both worked their tails off. Wideman played 38:05 and had four blocked shots. Brodie played 35:42 and had five shots on goal. Both Giordano (33:32) and O'Brien (21:26) played a ton despite taking penalities.
Full marks to the four surviving blueliners.
Honourable mention to Lance Bouma, who created offense and hit guys and blocked shots and all of that.
SUM IT UP
Calgary played an objectively better team and got a point in their barn. That's not bad.
They pack up their 16-26-7 record and head down the coast to San Jose, where they visit the Sharks at the SAP Center on Monday evening.
There's a chance that there's supplemental discipline from the NHL, though, for all the shenanigans that kicked off the game. I'm not sure if it's anything suspendable, but I wouldn't be shocked to see a fine levied to either Hartley or the club.