The Flames were back in action on Saturday for their final Saturday home game of the season, this time welcoming the Minnesota Wild to the friendly confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
What would materialize when one of the league’s worst home teams faced off against one of the league’s worst road teams? The answer would be….a fairly typical Flames/Wild tilt. Low-event, low-scoring and punctuated by a 39-minute scoreless stretch from mid-way through the first until mid-way through the third. Oh, and some fairly awful officiating.
Calgary opened the scoring fairly early in the opening period. Jay Bouwmeester missed on a pinch from the point, leading to an odd-man rush by the Wild. Their forward whiffed on a two-on-one one-timer, allowing Bouwmeester to rush back and deposit a gorgeous stretch pass to Alex Tangauy. Left all alone, Tanguay wristed the puck over a sprawling Niklas Backstrom to put the Flames up 1-0.
Fans were then treated to six minutes of Flames/Wild, low-chance hockey. This period of low-chance hockey was broken up by Charlie Coyle’s first NHL goal, on a nearly-perfect slap-pass from Pierre-Marc Bouchard. MacDonald had basically no chance at making the save. The game was tied at one apiece.
The Wild carried the play for the remainder of the first. The Wild out-shot Calgary 13-7 in the opening period. The Flames, however, led in icings by a shocking 5-1 margin.
The second was, to be blunt, a fairly tepid example of the game of hockey. The shots were 11-7 for the Flames. Calgary had two icings to Minnesota’s one. Very little happened. Notable was Chris Butler being horse-collared by Mike Rupp without a penalty call. Also, Akim Aliu and Rupp were given 10-minute misconducts mid-way through the period for seemingly no reason. It wasn’t announced in the press box and scuttlebutt was that it was for beaking each other and not calming down when told to by the referees. Aliu also had a tremendous body check in his own zone that probably (definitely) was charging. Or boarding. Or something. Either way, it led to the only shift of sustained pressure for the fourth line all game.
The grind continued throughout the third period, although Calgary gradually began to carry more and more of the play until, mid-way through the second, the Flames scored a goal – the first goal by anybody in nearly 40 full minutes of hockey.
A Chris Butler point shot was stopped by Backstrom. Jarome Iginla jammed at it, Backstrom kept it out. Matt Stajan jammed at it, then got his own rebound and it trickled in for his second of the year. The Flames led 2-1.
Also noteworthy in the third period was the inspired play of one Sven Baertschi. Baertschi created chances in his own and nearly drew a penalty when he was man-handled in the offensive zone. Alex Tanguay also should have drawn a penalty for having Dany Heatley sit on him during a period of sustained offensive pressure by the Flames. Nothing emerged from either scenario.
A penalty did emerge – as well as thoughts that the Flames would need yet another goaltender – when Jason Zucker cut through the crease and took Joey MacDonald’s legs out from under him. MacDonald was shaken up but stayed in the game. The power-play was negated mid-way through by Dennis Wideman taking a defensive zone penalty.
The Wild pressed late but were unable to tie things up. Matt Stajan potted an empty netter for his second of the game to send the fans home happy.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Neither team played particulalrly well. Calgary showed up for the third. The Wild didn’t.
Sven Baertschi. Kid had some good looks for his first game back and didn’t look out of place.
Honourable mention to Lee Stempniak who had a strong third and Matt Stajan who scored the GWG and empty-netter.
SUM IT UP
Flames back in action tomorrow. Let’s see if they can sweep the weekend.