Even with the Calgary Flames being outshot and outchanced on Thursday night at home to the Phoenix Coyotes, they still managed to score a late powerplay goal and gain another point before falling 4-3 in a shootout. Despite the ice spending far too much time tilted in the direction of the opposition of late, Calgary is still getting points out of games thanks in large part to the play of Miikka Kiprusoff. They finish Thursday night tied with Dallas and LA for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Things started in a good fashion for the Flames, as Mike Smith decided to help his opponents out. The Phoenix goaltender made an odd decision to come out and play the puck in front of him, giving it directly to Alex Tanguay. As he tried to slide a pass across to Mike Cammalleri, the puck would take an odd deflection off a Phoenix defender right into the net for a 1-0 lead at 8:35. Calgary’s second goal came at 15:38 when Tanguay found Matt Stajan in the high slot. Funny enough, Stajan would fire a shot with a ton of confidence, going top corner on Smith for his second of the season and a big two goal lead after 20.
A familiar foe would get Phoenix on the board at 1:32 in transition, with Ray Whitney using some nice vision to find a trailing Daymond Langkow in the high slot for his eighth of the season. With a couple posts in between the Coyotes would tie it at 17:08 right as a Jay Bouwmeester penalty expired. As Blake Comeau had a chance to clear the zone, he’d instead throw it right to Keith Yandle. A pass across to Oliver Ekman-Larsson turned into a tipped point shot by Shane Doan and his 19th of the season tied the game. The Yotes were better in the second and had things all even heading to the third.
A bizarre play midway through the final frame gave Phoenix their first lead, as Scott Hannan would blow a tire inside his own blueline allowing Ray Whitney to move in uncontested. With that much space, even a red hot Kiprusoff wasn’t making that stop, as Whitney would undress on his way to his 17th of the season at 10:27. But it was Kiprusoff who kept this game within one as the period rolled on making two quality saves setting up the tying goal in the dying minutes. With Radim Vrbata taking a seat for interference, Olli Jokinen would bang home his 19th at the side of the net at 18:14 for a powerplay tying goal sending this thing to extra time. Regulation scoring chances finished 16-12 Phoenix, including 16-9 at even strength.
Overtime solved nothing setting up another shootout for both teams, as they both like to enter "flip a coin" mode. With Smith stopping Jokinen, Tanguay, and Jarome Iginla in order all the Coyotes would need is a Ray Whitney shot to take a deserved two points.
One Good Reason…
…why the Flames lost? Well, once again, anytime you go to a shootout, it’s because the coin didn’t flip your way. But in reality, the reason they needed to fight back and tie this one is because they displayed next to no traits of how to play with a two goal lead. The puck bounced Calgary’s way in the first period and instead of clamping down, the Flames had next to no push back as the Coyotes fought from behind. They were soft on the puck and made bad decisions for the balance, so to call a spade a spade, they were fortunate to get a point. In fact, Brent Sutter was emphatic post game that Calgary was fortunate to get points in any of their last four games, so even he knows the team is flirting with the bottom falling out.
Lance Bouma. The guy did a great job against Phoenix depth today and was confident time and time again in moving the puck to the scoring areas. He’s never going to do that against the best of the best, but having a guy with the ability and desire to move the puck from the perimiter against opposing depth is a value. Many compare him to Brandon Prust for a reason and we’re starting to see a similar career path taken.
Sum It Up
To a man, the Flames were very unhappy with how they played in this one. It was a better game than the Edmonton affair, no question, but they still had a two goal lead and let it slip. Calgary needed last minute heroics just to earn a point in this one, yet even playing unsustainable hockey, the Flames still sit tied for eighth in the conference. Now it’s the Flyers on Saturday night.