The Colorado Avalanche came into Calgary smarting after an 8-2 whuppin’ up north in Edmonton on Thursday night. The Calgary Flames were riding high after a pair of wins over Los Angeles and Phoenix. With the Flames rested up and riding momentum, you’d expect a simple grind-em-out home win for Calgary.
But you’d probably be wrong. With the Flames missing Joe Colborne (flu) and Brian McGrattan (lower-body) and replacing them with Derek Smith and Lane MacDermid, the Flames were riding a short bench and seemed to play it like a road game. After eking out a lead, the Flames fell by a 3-2 score, despite a pretty decent attempt at a comeback late in the third.
The first period was mostly Flames-driven, with the locals pushing the pace to take advantage of Colorado. The Avs had some momentum late, but the Flames generally were able to neutralize their opportunities or block them. Calgary opened the scoring via their power-play. With Lee Stempniak parked in front of J.S Giguere, Kris Russell’s point shot found the net. Assists went to Sven Baertschi and Mikael Backlund, both gradually playing their way out of Bob Hartley’s doghouse. J.S. Giguere complained about goalie interference to no avail, and even got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his protests. The Flames could not capitalize on their subsequent power-play chance, and the Avalanche even came back a bit late in the period. The Flames led the period in shots (11-6), shot attempts (21-14), face-offs (12-7) and, of course, goals.
The second period was not all-Avalanche, but it was mostly Avalanche. As the period wore on, the teams spent more and more sustained time in the Calgary zone. Finally the proverbial floodgates opened, and not because of a Colorado dangle, but because of a puck-handling miscue. A soft pass behind the net by Karri Ramo was intercepted by John Mitchell, who fed Max Talbot out front for his first goal with the Avs. 54 seconds later, the Avalanche scored again, with Paul Byron unable to stop P.A. Parenteau from getting a pass in the slot. Suddenly, it was 2-1. In the middle frame the Avalanche led in shots (13-7), shot attempts (31-14) and goals, but the Flames maintained a face-off edge by a 13-8 margin.
You’d hope the Flames would play a desperate game in the third period, but the Avalanche began the period by continuing to push the pace. After a bit of back-and-forth action, Matt Stajan stole the puck on a line-change. He fed Lee Stempniak, whose stick exploded. This led to a Nathan MacKinnon-led 3-on-2. Karri Ramo made the initial save off Gabriel Landeskog, but the rebound went right to MacKinnon, who made it 3-1 Colorado. The Flames did push back after that goal, and with three minutes left they pulled the goal and got some results. The Flames battled in the offensive zone and Cammalleri found Stajan out front, tapping home a marker to make it 3-2. Jiri Hudler got his 19th assist of the season on that goal. With the net empty the Flames continued to press for the tying goal, but they just couldn’t capitalize and 3-2 was your final. Calgary had a narrow lead in shots (10-6) and attempts (19-17) in the third, but the Avalanche held a narrow face-off advantage (10-9) and skated away with the road win.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
They failed to take advantage of a tired Colorado Avalanche team during the first when they were struggling to find their legs, and then they failed to adjust when Colorado found their legs. Standing around watching a talented Colorado top-six play with the puck is rarely a recipe for success.
In addition, taking two penalties that nullified power-plays completely derailed chances to regain momentum in the third period. Twice.
|Home||1||13:12||Stempniak rebound PP||4||7||11||22||31||47||11||16||25||35||61||5v4|
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Let’s go with Matt Stajan. Matty Franchise had a late goal to make the game close. In a game where the Flames weren’t great 5-on-5 he had a goal, wasn’t a minus player and won 75% of his face-offs. In a rare game where the NHL’s worst face-off team won most of their draws, Stajan was a big factor.
SUM IT UP
The Flames had their two-game winning string snapped by the Avalanche tonight, but they’re back in action tomorrow evening. As per tradition, it’s the late (8pm MT) game on Hockey Night in Canada, as they head up the road to Shelbyville to face off against their hated rivals, the Edmonton Oilers.
Don’t you dare miss it!
(Unless you have already made plans. It’d be rude to break plans to watch the NHL’s fourth-worst team play the fifth worst-team.)