(courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Saturday night’s late game on Hockey Night in Canada followed a pretty great Toronto/Montreal game with playoff implications. Calgary’s tilt with Edmonton didn’t have playoff implications, although at times it did have a playoff-like atmosphere. No, this year’s installments of the Battle of Alberta have been about the future.
On Saturday night in Edmonton, the Calgary Flames beat the Edmonton Oilers because their younger players were bigger difference-makers than the Oilers’ younger players.
The first period was up-tempo and spirited, with many scoring chances for either side (24 total in the 20 minutes). The play itself was fairly even, with both sides generating chances but over time, the clubs implementing some defense and keeping things more and more to the outside. Calgary opened the scoring via the Kid Line of Markus Granlund, Sean Monahan and Joe Colborne. The trio cycled the puck, with Colborne winning a puck battle and chipping a puck to Monahan, who put a shot over Bryzgalov for his 17th of the season. On the very next face-off, Kevin Westgarth tangled with Luke Gazdic and was trounced. He left the game after going down hard after four straight punches to his face and did not return. First period shots were 11-9 Flames, attempts were 24-22 Oilers, chances were 13-11 Flames and face-offs were 14-6 Oilers. That’ll be important later.
The second period was much lower-tempo and low event. The highlight was Edmonton’s first power-play, where they peppered the Flames with shots and Calgary’s defenders earned their money, losing sticks and blocking shots all over the place. The Flames late-period power-plays were, to be blunt, not good. The Oilers used movement and passing to open up shooting lanes, the Flames stayed more or less stationary and cycled around the periphery. Calgary played solid at even-strength but couldn’t generate much. Shots were 6-3 Oilers, attempts were 23-13 Oilers, chances were 9-6 Oilers and face-offs were 10-5 Oilers. But they couldn’t solve Berra, so the Flames held a slim lead heading into the third.
The Flames pushed back more in the third, but were kept to the outside for the most part by Edmonton. The Oilers went back to basics a bit, playing fairly good positional defense and hoping the Flames would get frustrated. It worked to some extent. And oddly, the Oilers tying goal was a mirror of the Calgary goal – the Oilers out-worked the Flames Kid Line on the boards and David Perron scored from the face-off dot with a moving screen on Reto Berra. The tempo picked up after the goal, with the Flames working harder to generate chances, but the game remained tied and went to OT. Shots were 13-7 Calgary, attempts were 26-17 Calgary, face-offs were 14-13 Edmonton and chances were 7-5 Edmonton.
There was one scoring chance in OT. On the boards, Paul Byron beat an Oilers defender to the puck, created some separation with some body contact, and fed linemate Sean Monahan as he was heading towards the slot. Monahan beat Bryzgalov for the second time in the game to win the game for the Flames. It was Monahan’s 18th goal of the year. Shots were 3-0 and face-offs – often a bane of Calgary’s existence – were 4-0 for the Flames.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
For all the talk of how talented Edmonton’s core of young players are, David Perron and Ales Hemsky were probably the best Oilers. Granted, Calgary didn’t get a whole heck of a lot out of their veterans offensively, but Monahan and whoever he was playing with – a combination of Colborne, Byron and Granlund – were difference-makers for the Flames when it mattered most.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
(Flames in blue)
Who else could it be?
Sean Monahan played 16 minutes and scored both Calgary goals. On a night where Mike Cammalleri appeared to be somewhere else entirely, Monahan was firmly in the here and now and was a difference-maker for the visitors.
Honourable mention to Mark Giordano, who’s always pretty strong.
SUM IT UP
The Flames have moved their record to 23-30-7. They’re 5 points up on Edmonton for last in the West with 2 games in hand. The club’s last game prior to Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline is on Monday night in the Twin Cities as the Flames visit the Minnesota Wild.
Word from Edmonton is Reto Berra gets the start, Kevin Westgarth is heading home to get evaluated and Lee Stempniak (whose wife had twins today) is meeting the team in Minny.