The season opening woes continued Saturday for the Calgary Flames, as an absolutely dismal second period was enough to sink the home team 5-3 at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The middle 20 minutes, with a few tacked on either side, was as dominant a performance from a visiting team I’ve seen at the Saddledome in ages. Unfortunately for Calgary, a late rally was too little, too late as the Flames have lost eight of their last nine season openers.
It was actually a very positive opening frame for the Flames, as they had quite a bit of possession and offensive zone time. I liked how they moved the puck out of their own end, I like their entry, and I liked their cycle. While Calgary only generated three scoring chances at even strength, they also held the impressive Penguins to just three of their own, doing the job in the first period. Even better was their opening goal, and it was of the highlight reel variety. At 15:32, Mark Giordano took a pass from Scott Hannan and broke in down the left side of the seem; instead of going hard to the net, Gio fired a gorgeous pass to Curtis Glencross who one timed his first of the season, giving the Flames a 1-0 lead after one.
Then the second period happened. As referenced above, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone run Calgary’s show like the Penguins did in the middle frame. That includes blowouts at the ‘Dome by Washington, Vancouver and Chicago over the last two seasons. The Flames quite literally didn’t have the puck in the second period, as Pittsburgh scored four times. It started early with Tyler Kennedy scoring on a lopsided odd-man rush out of the penalty box. His first beat Miikka Kiprusoff five hole to tie the score. At 6:40 of the second, Matt Niskanen scored a powerplay goal at the tail end of a man advantage where the Pens blitzed the Flames. Craig Adams gave Pittsburgh a two goal lead at 10:11 while the feisty Evgeni Malkin scored on the powerplay at 13:04 to give the Pens a 4-1 lead after 40. Calgary was outchanced 14-4 (!) at even strength in the middle frame.
The Flames played the score in the third period, and scored twice. Rene Bourque finished off a nice Alex Tanguay pass started by a Roman Horak play at 9:08; it’s the first ever NHL point for Horak. Calgary scored again when Niklas Hagman fed Olli Jokinen from behind the net; Jokinen beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a nice shot at 16:23. The Flames pushed in the final frame but things were sealed with five seconds to go as Jordan Staal iced it with an empty netter.
One Good Reason…
…why the Flames lost? Because they didn’t have the puck in the second period and for a good chunk at the end of the first and beginning of the third. When a very good team like the Penguins have possession for as much as they did in the middle part of the game, you aren’t going to win very many hockey games.
I’m sure we’ll be saying this numerous times. Mark Giordano had a strong, strong game for the Flames, leading all players with five blocked shots. In his 22:43 of ice time, he was physical, smart defensively and got into the rush. His pass to set up Calgary’s first goal was incredible, and all in all, Gio was the best player on the ice for the home side.
Sum It Up
Calgary wasn’t good enough over a 60 minute span in this one, and against a very good opponent, you’re not going to win hockey games. That’s the negative, but it’s also the facts of the matter. However, I look back to a few games last season and liked how the Flames didn’t let this unravel on them. The games I think of are the Washington and Vancouver 7-2 defeats, both at home, so I think there is some value in that heading out on a three game road trip. That trip starts Monday afternoon in St. Louis.