Tuesday night’s contest was an opportunity on many fronts for the Calgary Flames. It was their chance to continue a string of solid efforts that pre-dates their current winning string. It was a chance to clinch the season series against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions from Chicago. It was also their chance to win three in a row for the first time all year, something they had failed to do three times previous.
It was also considered a potential measuring-stick game for the club, a chance to see how they stacked up against one of the most complete hockey clubs in the NHL. But sometimes things turn out a bit weirdly, and as a result, the Flames were engaged for two periods in a bit of a track meet.
Oh, and Reto Berra failed to get a regulation win for the 22nd time this season. That’s gotta be some sort of record.
The Flames opened the score early, with the top line taking advantage of some shoddy neutral zone play by the Blackhawks and transitioning the puck into the Chicago zone. Mikael Backlund scored off a nice feed from Lee Stempniak. That lead didn’t last long, though, as Kris Versteeg beat Matt Stajan and T.J. Brodie to a loose puck and fed Patrick Kane in front of the net to tie it up at one apiece.
Of course, that didn’t last, as the Flames scored midway through the period, with a weird shot from the left wing by Lance Bouma hit Antti Raanta high and eluded him, trickling over him and into the net. That lead didn’t last, with Jonathan Toews driving the net. Reto Berra made a nice save, then Patrick Sharp swiped at the loose rebound, hitting Marian Hossa’s stick, which hit the puck and tied the game. Hossa got credit for the goal and Sharp didn’t even get an assist. The game went into the intermission tied 2-2. Chicago led in shots (10-8) and shot attempts (26-13), but Calgary held the advantage at the face-off dot by a 12-8 margin.
The Flames pulled out to a nice advantage in the second period. First, Matt Stajan was set up by David Jones on a nice rush off a transition play, putting the Flames up 3-2. Later on, with Ben Street in the penalty box, the Flames again took advantage of a turnover, rushing up the ice on a short-handed 3-on-1 chance. Giordano fed Stempniak, who fed Backlund, who scored his second of the game (and 11th of the season). The Flames were up 4-2 and Antti Raanta’s night was over after 4 goals on 15 shots./p>
But that didn’t last.
First, an innocent-looking shot from Ben Smith from just inside the blueline beat Reto Berra glove-side to make it 3-2. Later on, with Johnny Oduya in the box, the Blackhawks scored on a short-handed opportunity. A 2-on-1 failed, but Berra flailed around looking for the rebound, with little help from his scrambling defense, and two shots later, it was all tied up du to a Marian Hossa goal (his second of the game). The second period shots were 14-10 Chicago, attempts were 25-17 Chicago, and face-offs were even at 10-10.
Karri Ramo came in for the third period and things seemed to calm the heck down. Both teams played more structured, although still a bit sloppily in all three zones. Nobody scored. We went to overtime, where the Flames pushed the pace and just 2:26 in, Lee Stempniak won a board battle and charged the neck. Amidst a bit of a scramble, T.J. Brodie potted his 4th of the year to send the fans home happy. Shots in the third and overtime were 11-9 Calgary, although Chicago had the edge in shot attempts (20-16) and face-offs (10-6).
WHY THE FLAMES WON (IN OT)
The Blackhawks didn’t play especially well and the Flames took it to them quite a bit in the first two periods, taking advantage of their chances and generally pushing the pace. Reto Berra allowed a couple soft goals to keep things close. In the third, the Flames managed to rein the track meet in a little bit, calm things down and score an opportunistic goal in overtime to win.
Chicago played just bad enough to lose and Calgary played just well enough to win.
Lots of contenders here – Lee Stempniak had three assists and T.J. Brodie had the game-winning goal – but I’m gonna go with FlamesNation darling Mikael Backlund. Good ol’ number 11 had a pair of goals, both of them ones where he drove the net and played hard. He led the game in shots (with 5) and played over 20 minutes. Another strong effort in a string of them.
SUM IT UP
The Flames walk away from their season series with the Chicago Blackhawks, reigning Stanley Cup champs, with four of a possible six points. They sit 19-27-7 on the year, four points back of 27th-place Florida and five points up on 28th-place Edmonton with two games in hand.
They return to action on Thursday night, where they rematch with the San Jose Sharks, who beat them 3-2 in Calgary’s last loss on January 20 at the Shark Tank.