With points in their first four games of the season, the Calgary Flames had a unique opportunity before them on Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. After 60 minutes of hard-fought, occasionally chess-like hockey, the Flames were able to make a little bit of history.
The first period was pretty even and quite back and forth. The Flames out-shot the Devils 10-7, but New Jersey struck first. With the Flames on a power-play, Curtis Glencross took a tripping penalty and after a brief period of four-on-four, the Devils got a truncated power-play opportunity. On the heels of an exchange featuring some nice passing (and some nice reflex saves from Joey MacDonald), Adam Henrique put the puck past MacDonald for his first goal of the year, giving New Jersey a 1-0 lead. The Devils goal was scored just after Glencross’ penalty expired, but the zone control the Devils gained was due to their PP.
The Flames power-play was the star of the second period. The teams each had 10 shots on net in the second, but the Devils definitely carried the play. The difference – and what kept Calgary in the contest – was a combination of the Devils’ lack of discipline and Calgary’s opportunism on the PP.
Case in point: Calgary tied the game on a beautiful one-timer from Dennis Wideman on a power-play created by an Anton Volchenkov penalty in the Devils’ zone. The Devils kept pressing and re-took the lead on a Dainus Zubrus one-timer from the point that beat Joey MacDonald at the top-corner (but wasn’t really screened), putting the Devils up 2-1. However, just three minutes and change later, the Flames tied it up. After Michael Ryder took a goalie interference penalty – nullifying a potential third Devils goal – Mark Giordano capped a nice power-play by deking past two Devils forwards and going back-hand on a sprawling Martin Brodeur to tie the game up at 2. Granted, Brodeur was expecting a different shot from the point and went down too early, but hey, the Flames PP scored for a second time and kept the Flames in it.
There was lots of Flames pressure early in the third period, including one segment where the fourth line created two nice little opportunities and another where the Baertschi line had maybe six or seven whacks at the puck in front of Brodeur – but the wily veteran made several gorgeous saves to keep things dead-locked. The Flames ended up getting hemmed into their own zone for a while with about seven minutes left: Bouma blocked two shots, Backlund blocked two shots, and the Flames ended up getting a two-on-one opportunity out of it. The Flames have adopted a more structured, PK-like system in their own zone. It’s a bit passive for my tastes, but it does prevent them from running around like fools in their own zone.
The Flames went ahead with just over two minutes left when Baertschi, on the half-boards, found Sean Monahan on the far side of the crease through a maze of coverage for a one-timed slap-pass. They managed to hold on following a late penalty to Mark Giordano to win their third game of 2013-14.
FLAME OF THE GAME
I’m gonna go with Lance Bouma. Number 17 got his first taste of the top-nine and didn’t look out of place. Moreover, when the Flames got hemmed in their zone in the third with the game tied, he sacrified his body to keep the game stuck at 2-2. He didn’t get any points, but Bouma definitely factored in on the score-sheet.
Honourable mention to Jiri Hudler, who had two assists.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
In short, the Flames stuck to their system. In the third period, the Devils got tired and got a bit sloppy defensively. The Flames stuck to their coverage and got a few lucky breaks – two power-play goals and a gorgeous, gorgeous pass from Baertschi on the winning goal that made it to Monahan’s stick
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
SUM IT UP
Two big things happened: the Flames were opportunitic and their power-play kept them in the game. And then the Monahan experience continued, with the 18-year-old (he turns 19 tomorrow) scoring yet another big goal. Be sure to laugh at Kent in the comments.
The Flames hit the road with a 3-0-2 record and a lot of confidence in themselves and their systems.