January 07 2017 11:24PM
A day after losing a close, crucial game to their most hated rival, the Calgary Flames were back at it tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames scored a pair of goals in the first period and then largely held on for dear life, surviving a turbulent second period that saw them play rather poorly. Despite those stumbles, Calgary soldiered on for a 3-1 victory against Vancouver.
After pummeling the Canucks with shot attempts on Friday night, the Flames were a bit less dominant (and a bit less precise in their execution) in the first period. Passes quite often just missed their mark and the neutral zone play left a bit to be desired; Loui Eriksson got a gorgeous chance off some neutral zone confusion but Chad Johnson made a big stop.
The Flames ended up hitting the scoresheet first, though, with a pair of goals just 63 seconds apart. First, Johnny Gaudreau made a nice individual effort after a faceoff win to hold the puck in the offensive end. That allowed Sean Monahan to tee up a shot that Alex Chiasson tipped past Jacob Markstrom.
Just the tip from Chiasson— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) January 8, 2017
Then Garnet Hathaway made a nice move, chipping the puck around Alexander Edler (and eating a chop on the way past) and making a nice pass to the slot for a Matt Stajan redirect (and a 2-0 lead).
Shots were 10-10 in the opening 20 minutes.
We're going to be blunt: the Flames were awful in the second period. Handling the puck like you would handle an explosive device or perhaps a hive full of angry bees – from a distance and with much hesitation – they got into the offensive zone just a handful of times and only got a few good chances. Our friends at Natural Stat Trick had high-danger chances at 6-1 Vancouver in the second and that's a fairly good representation of who carried play.
Chad Johnson was very good and made several impressive saves.
Dougie helping out in net tonight pic.twitter.com/V4VriGI6HG— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) January 8, 2017
He allowed just one goal during the onslaught, a shot by Bo Horvat off the cycle that beat Johnson just inside the far post (with Sam Bennett's line doing a fair bit of standing around and unintentionally screening their netminder). Shots were 13-10 Vancouver in the period (and that count probably flatters the Flames a bit).
The visitors pressed early in the third but couldn't tie the game, even when they had a power play opportunity with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. The Flames killed that penalty off and Matthew Tkachuk sprung Michael Frolik for a breakaway opportunity that he converted to make it 3-1.
Frolik from his surrogate son— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) January 8, 2017
Tkachuk has a nine game point streak; which is the longest by any rookie this season pic.twitter.com/nEawkDn2Iv
Shots were 11-6 for the Flames in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
There are two primary reasons why the Flames got two points tonight. Reason one is their goaltender, who was excellent and held them in the game during their woeful second period. The other reason is their special teams play; they generated a bunch of momentum on their lone power play and were able to keep the Canucks power play from scoring (after giving one up to them last night).
THE TURNING POINT
A third period penalty can sink a team, especially if they're clinging to a one goal lead. The Flames gave up four shots on Vancouver's advantage, but Johnson made big saves and the Flames did their best to minimize the damage from rebounds. It sapped the Canucks of some momentum and helped swing the game.
Johnson was superb tonight, especially in the second period. He was the best player overall.
As per usual, a tip of the cap to the vaunted 3M Line. They were matched with the Sedins all evening long and kept them off of the scoresheet.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
Tkachuk's point streak extends to nine games! However, Mikael Backlund's point streak end at six games.
Anton Rodin, dressed as the 13th forward as a late replacement for Ben Hutton, played zero shifts.
"There's a couple outliers in games. We saw one of them in the last two games; the goalies are certainly an outlier, specialty teams are the other. Now with our penalty kill we are pretty confident that we can kill two or three penalties a night. When you go into the last couple minutes under five and you've got to kill one, it's good to have that confidence." - Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team's special teams being a difference-maker in games.
"We were all a little bit agitated there after the second. To put it quite frank, we didn't look like a team in the second. We were kind of all over the place. Guys weren't supporting the puck, we weren't supporting each other. That's not the way that we win hockey games, that's not the way we play as a team. So we talked about it, came out in the third, were better, and we got the two points." - Flames center Matt Stajan on the team's second period performance.
The Flames (22-18-2) are off tomorrow and then back in action on Monday night. Truly, theirs are the lives to envy, as they're headed to Winnipeg for a game with the Jets. Winnipeg in mid-January? We should all be so lucky. They're back at home on Wednesday to host the Sharks.