With just nine games left in the 2013 season, Friday night seemed like a prime time for the Calgary Flames to continue their trudge towards the draft lottery. Missing a handful of regulars and featuring a handful of AHL call-ups, including uber-prospects Max “Power” Reinhart and Sven Baertschi, the Flames are presently high on energy but a bit shy on NHL experience.
So the playoff-hungry Phoenix Coyotes would just run over this rag-tag bunch of local toughs, right?
The “Death for Seth” crowd was probably in a good mood early, as Antoine Vermette put the Coyotes up 1-0 on just the second shot fired at Joey MacDonald in the first period. The Flames buzzed around quite a bit in the first period and generally looked full of piss and vinegar, but just couldn’t bury any of their chances.
That changed late in the period, as the Flames played ping-pong in the offensive zone and Mikael Backlund bonked the puck in off of Jiri Hudler’s skates. One lengthy video review later and the game was tied at one apiece heading to the intermission.
The second period was very low-event, but featured one event that was rather cringe-worthy – even for the Flames fans that hope that the team tanks the rest of their games. Winger Alex Tanguay went down awkwardly in the corner, with his right knee bending rather awkwardly underneath a falling defender. Tanguay left the game and did not return, with the Flames officially noting that he’ll be re-examined tomorrow morning. Paging Blair Jones, again?
With a short bench, the Flames played a smart perimeter game for the remainder of the second period. They managed to draw a Phoenix penalty and capitalized late in the period. T.J. Brodie’s slapper trickled through Mike Smith and was poked home by Lee Stempniak, putting the club up 2-1.
The third period was played mostly on the perimeter, much like the second. The Coyotes seemed to realize late in the proceedings that they had to tie the game and they poured on the pressure. They finally broke through after penning the Flames in their own zone for awhile. After failing to clear the zone several times, Calgary blew their lead via a Keith Yandle one-timer.
And so we went to over-time.
The desperation that the ‘Yotes closed out the third with appeared to evaporate rather early in the extra frame. The Flames out-shot Phoenix 3-2 in overtime and generated some good scoring opportunities. The final one, courtesy a point shot by Mark Giordano, went in. The Flames captured just their second overtime win of the year by a 3-2 score.
WHY THE FLAMES WON…
The Coyotes weren’t terribly engaged until late in the third and were largely kept to the perimeter by the Calgary Flames defense. In addition, Calgary’s youngsters kept the team moving forward with their energy. To be truthful, if the Flames had less horrible puck-luck, they probably would’ve beaten the Coyotes by a wider margin.
Mikael Backlund had two assists on the night, but I’ve gotta give this to Max “Power” Reinhart. Reinhart played 20 minutes in just his fourth NHL game, had oodles of scoring chances, including 3 shots on Mike Smith, as well as two hits. He continues to be a very positive contributor to the Calgary Flames line-up and it’ll be very interesting to see how he improves between now and the beginning of next season.
Flames in Red:
SUM IT UP
The Flames managed to put together a good, but not great, 60 minutes of hockey and beat a team above them in the standings. In addition to being a moral victory, it was an actual, honest-to-gosh, hockey victory. And not only that, they managed to get a win without moving up in the NHL’s standings and lessening their chances at a high draft choice in June.
Draft fans, get worried if they do the same thing against the Oilers tomorrow night. But for now, bask in the glory of a win.