After a rough road trip that saw the club lose four of five games, the Calgary Flames returned home to the Scotiabank Saddledome hoping to get back in the win column. They had their work cut out for them, missing their most dependable blueliner (Mark Giordano) and forward (Lee Stempniak) and facing the powerhouse Washington Capitals, winners of four of their last five contests.
Recent results from both teams would suggest a particular outcome, but both teams had a few surprises up their sleeves on this evening in one of the odder games I’ve seen in awhile.
The Flames returned home and began their homestand with quite possibly their best period of the year. The line of Joe Colborne, Mike Cammalleri and T.J. Galiardi put together a lot of good shifts, including a couple that impacted the score. On a lengthy opening shift, the Flames struck first – Kris Russell sneaking in from the point to put home a big rebound. The pressure continued from the Flames and they struck once again. After amassing an 11-2 lead in shots, Jiri Hudler knocked in a Sean Monahan rebound to take a 2-0 lead on a play made possibly by a nice Sven Baertschi zone entry.
The Capitals broke the goose-egg on their end with a goal by Jason Chimera made possible by a Shane O’Brien miscue at the Capitals blueline. The Flames rushed back, with Derek Smith making a heroic diving block to keep Chimera to the outside. Unfortunately, after a few perimeter passes, the Flames forgot Chimera was still around, allowing him to put a puck past Ramo to move the Caps back within one. That lasted all of 48 seconds, as the aforementioned Colborne/Cammalleri/Galiardi line struck again, this time with Cammalleri tipping home a Dennis Wideman point shot. That goal chased Braden Holtby for the second time in as many games against Calgary. In the opening frame, the Flames lead in shots (17-8), Corsi events (23-13), face-off wins (14-6) and scoring chances (11-4). All-in-all, a fantastic period for the hometown team.
In the second period, the Flames got hemmed into own zone for awhile. Every line, except for oddly the McGrattan/Backlund/Bouma line, spent a good deal of time in their own zone. Eventually the Capitals got their feet moving and kept beating the Flames to loose pucks. After about six of these attempted clears, the Capitals put the puck on the net and Aaron Volpatti put the puck past a sprawing Karri Ramo to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Flames were less coordinated in general in the middle stanza: lots of missed passes and nice plays that just missed their mark. This resulted in quite a few turnovers, but they also showcased the back-checking abilities of a handful of players – notably Joe Colborne and T.J. Galiardi. There were also a few off-sides caused by the Flames bench opening inside the blueline – a stick-tap to Canadian Press’ Darren Haynes for noting that. Anyhoo, the Flames just couldn’t put much together, but the Caps weren’t that much better in the second. The Flames out-shot Washington 9-8 (miraculously), but the Capitals had the edge in Corsi events 20-12, face-offs 10-6 and scoring chances 5-3.
The third period was a bit odd, like the second, although much less one-sided. Each team had weird bounces, odd miscues and broken plays. A few of these resulted in very nice saves by Karri Ramo. The Flames managed to extend their lead off of an offensive zone face-off, when Mike Cammalleri’s shot from the corner made its way through Michal Neuvirth and into the net. Yes, a goal with the weirdness fitting this hockey game. Curtis Glencross finally got on the board late in the game after having terrible luck all evening (and arguably all season). In the last period, the Flames were out-shot 13-8 and out-Corsied 23-12, but had the edge in face-offs 11-10. Scoring chances were even at 3-3.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Because the Capitals really weren’t very good. Alex Ovechkin was invisible, despite putting a lot of pucks near the net, and the Flames played well enough to win. Their penalty kill was full marks on the evening, as opposed to their rough outing in DC to open the season.
And the Flames’ best players managed to be difference-makers when they needed to be.
FLAME OF THE GAME
Gotta go with Mike Cammalleri, who had three points, four shots on net and a plus-two rating. Honourable mention to Kris Russell, who had a great game, and Joe Colborne, who was a beast in the face-off circle.
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SUM IT UP
The Capitals weren’t that good and the Flames were pretty good, if a tad uneven over the middle 20 minutes. But they out-played the Capitals when the game was up for grabs and collected two points.
Next up for the Flames are the fabled Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. The puck drops at 6pm and you can catch the game on TSN, Fan 960 and via the usual FN suspects on Twitter.