The first meeting of 2013 between the Calgary Flames and their bitter rivals, the Vancouver Canucks, started off as a bit of a snoozer. Both teams played as poorly as they had in their two previous regular season games to date. However, after a lacklustre first period, the game turned into quite the barn-burner and a play-off like showcase of what Sportsnet’s Rob Kerr would call “big boy hockey.”
After falling behind 2-0, much like their early effort against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, the Flames battled back and earned their first point of the season in a 3-2 shootout loss. While the talent level of the Flames may be up for some debate, their heart has been on display in the last two games.
The first period was scoreless and was, to be blunt, not an amazingly great period of hockey. The Canucks drove the play in the first 12 or 15 minutes and the Flames got their legs going late and pushed the play. Neither goalie was forced to keep their team in it, although Miikka Kiprusoff made a big save on a Sedin early-on, while Cory Schneider stole one from Jarome Iginla late. The Flames out-chanced the Canucks 5-3 in the first.
The second period featured every single bit of regulation scoring. The Canucks drove play from the get-go and scored twice. First, on a Zack Kassian wrister, then two minutes later on a power-play caused by a Derek Smith high-stick while the Flames were penned into their own zone.
However, the Flames pushed back. Two and a half minutes after the Canucks went up 2-0, Alex Tangay scored on a rush to bring the Flames within one. From then on, Calgary really pushed the play and tied up the game on a Mikael Backlund power-play marker.
The first half of the second period was almost entirely driven by the Canucks (going 6-0 in scoring chances), while the second half was driven by the Flames (who went 4-0 in scoring chances after the half-way mark). The Canucks out-chanced the Flames 6-4 overall in the second.
The third period and overtime were both back and forth affairs that were largely even. Both clubs generated scoring chances, but both goaltenders were quite good. The Flames out-chanced the Canucks 4-3 in the third period, while each club had a scoring chance apiece in the extra frame.
The Canucks scored twice in the skills competition to close the game and out skated away with the win. The Flames head back to town with the point for the extra-time loss.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST…
Well, much like every game to date, the Flames haven’t seemed to have found their sea legs. There were quite a few passes made several feet in front (or behind) teammates, and there were a few instances where Flames played bumper-cars with their teammates, knocking into each other when – had there been some pre-season games – they would have usually worked out their typical time and space ont he ice by now. The second period was a cavalcade of errors and the Canucks probably could have run away with things if they had not have taken so many consecutive penalties, which allowed Calgary to get back into things.
The Flames also deployed their power-play units rather bizarrely. Jarome Iginla had six and a half minutes of power-play time, which was fairly typical of the first unit. Mikael Backlund led all other players with just over two minutes, despite scoring a goal in the second. It seemed that the first unit just didn’t have it tonight, and it was a bit frustrating to see Flames coach Bob Hartley continually throw out them over the boards over and over again.
That said, the Flames went into enemy territory, are definitely not icing their “regular” 2013 roster and were playing one of the most skilled teams in hockey. The fact that they managed to fight back from two-goal deficit, won half their face-offs and actually ended up even on shots on goal is pretty impressive.
After Monday’s game, Hartley said the Flames were playing hard enough to win but not well enough to win. They closed the gap between those two measures considerably tonight.
Let’s go with Alex Tanguay. A goal with that snipe on a two-on-one rush and the only Flames skater to score in the shoot-out. Tanguay is still getting used to playing center and Alain Vigneault wasn’t shy about sending the Sedins out against him tonight. That he emerged with a point and with an even plus/minus on the night is a victory by itself.