photo courtesy vagueonthehow
Just over 24 hours after their triumph in Buffalo, the Calgary Flames attempted to sweep the first two games of their five-game Eastern road trip in New York City. Facing a Rangers club that has a similar record, but isn’t “rebuilding,” the Flames aimed to make their return to Broadway one to remember.
While the result on the standings probably wasn’t what the team hoped for (with just a point to show for their trip to Madison Square Garden), we were treated to quite the entertaining spectacle on Sunday evening.
The first period was good, both in the sense that it was fun to watch and that the Flames played quite well. After a pretty back and forth few minutes, the Flames found the scoreboard first on the power-play. With Chris Kreider off for interference, the Flames won a face-off, Mark Giordano fed Kris Russell at the point. Mikael Backlund tipped the shot past Henrik Lundqvist. The entire play took five seconds of PP time and the Flames led 1-0.
The Flames had even more chances after the Backlund goal, including Lance Bouma biffing a breakaway chance set up by a gorgeous Shane O’Brien outlet pass and Curtis Glencross clanging a shot off the post after a great Jiri Hudler feed in the slot. The visitors briefly went up by a pair, as Jiri Hudler blocked a lazy Rangers clearing attempt on the board, stick-handled past a few Rangers D-men and then fed Curtis Glencross cross-crease for a tap-in goal past Lundqvist for a 2-0. That lead lasted 25 seconds, as Derek Stepan scored right after to put the Rangers on the board. Karri Ramo played the puck properly, it just found the very outside corner of the far post. The Flames took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room, leading in shots 11-6, but trailing in shot attempts 21-15 and face-offs 12-11.
The first few minutes of the second period were rather even, but the New York Rangers found their legs and soon took over the period, for the most part. At about the half-way mark, the locals tied it. Karri Ramo made the first save, but then Carl Hagelin skated the puck around the net and beat Ramo on the wrap-around on the far post to even things up at 2-2. The rest of the period featured the Rangers carrying the play, aside from a brief 4-on-3 power-play for Calgary and a fight between Brian McGrattan and rookie Dylan McIlrath. The Rangers led the way in shots (12-3), attempts (25-11) and face-offs (12-8) in the second period.
The third period was another featuring some back-and-forth action. The Flames edged again via some nice board work and tema play. The Hudler/Glencross/Monahan line out-manned the Rangers defenders down low, then drove to the net. Monahan got his tenth of the year on the drive, chipping a puck over Lundqvist and giving Calgary a 3-2 lead. However, the lead would not last. After a Rangers penalty kill, the Flames lapsed a bit in their own zone, failing to clear the puck out of Ramo’s crease. Chris Kreider took advantage of this lapse and banged a rebound home to tie the game at 3-3.
And then we got the weirdest four minutes of hockey so far this year. Mike Cammalleri took a penalty behind his own net to put the Flames down a man with 3:56 left. Then Karri Ramo batted the puck out of the air after save, unintentionally sending the puck over the glass and puttng the Flames down a pair for 1:21. Mikael Backlund, Chris Butler and Mark Giordano killed 1:20 of that 5-on-3, and then Chris Butler got clipped in the face by a Rangers stick, earning a four-minute penalty for the home squad and negating the remainder of the Rangers power-play. We ended regulation knotted at 3-3. The Rangers led in shots 10-6, in attempts 26-11 and in face-offs 13-7.
Overtime was back and forth, with the Flames unfortunately failing to take advantage of the lengthy 4-on-3 power-play. In the extra five minutes, the Rangers actually out-shot Calgary 4-1 and had more shot attempts by a 6-4 margin. Face-offs were even at 2-2.
The shootout went to seven rounds, with the Ranges scoring first and the Flames battling back on three occasions. Mats Zucarello’s goal was met by Joe Colborne’s. Mike Richards’ goal was matched by Lee Stempniak’s. Dominic Moore’s was met by Paul Byron’s. But Benoit Pouliot’s slow mis-direction shot trickled past Karri Ramo in Round 7, and Mikael Backlund couldn’t beat Lundqvist, so the Rangers skated away with the shootout win.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
We’ve heard it time and time again, but the Flames are having a heck of a time holding onto leads. In this case, they seemed to lose steam in the second and let the Rangers take over the game. And when they did get leads, they seemed content with leading the game and didn’t lock things down.
And once again, while the Flames penalty kill was full marks, the power-play was given many chances to decide the game for the visitors, and they couldn’t capitalize.
Mikael Backlund had a goal on the power-play, won 10 of the 21 face-offs he took (leading the team in both categories) and was part of that epic 1:21 5-on-3 kill. Honourable mention (and some ice packs) to Lance Bouma, who blocked four shots in the first period alone.
SUM IT UP
The Flames drop their record to 13-15-5, which is still strangely good considering this team is rebuilding. Calgary has now eked their way out of the “lottery bunch” (Buffalo, the Islanders, Edmonton and Florida) and are now actually just four points behind Dallas for 17th overall in the NHL. If this team didn’t blow so many leads, they’d probably be firmly snuggled in amongst the NHL’s mushy middle.
But the fact that they blow so many leads is probably why everyone (including team management) admits the team’s rebuilding. And why the club still has a pretty decent chance at a good pick in June’s Entry Draft.
The Flames get back in action on Tuesday night at the TD Garden, where they visit the Boston Bruins. The puck drops at 5pm MT on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet 960 The Fan. So you have options if you can’t skip out of work early.