(courtesy the NHL/NHL.com)
Joe Nieuwendyk’s number was honoured (but not retired) on Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome. As expected, the Calgary Flames sat around on the bench for about 20 minutes as people talked about how great Nieuwendyk was as a player. Then they played a fairly uninspired two periods of hockey, aside from a few pockets of energetic play from the kids.
And then the New York Islanders failed to cash in on 66 seconds of a two-man advantage, already up two goals, and the Hockey Gods punished them for it. Three Flames goals in just over four minutes, and the Flames accomplished a miraculous comeback and won despite being the worse team for about 45 of the game’s 60 minutes.
It was as if the Islanders just wanted to lose the game more than the Flames did. (Spoiler: This is probably true.)
Just like Wednesday’s game with the Seantors, the Flames came out of the gate full of piss and vinegar. They had a lot of early scoring chances, but fell off a bit as the game wore on. With the team short-handed, Paul Byron came off the bench, corralled a loose puck, then slickly dished it to Markus Granlund down low, who sniped it past Anders Nilsson to put the Flames up 1-0. Joni Ortio got the other assist for his first NHL point. After that initial surge, the Flames play fell off and the Isles found their legs. They out-shot Calgary 11-0 after the Flames got out to a 6-0 shot lead, and Colin McDonald cashed in, beating Ortio over the shoulder glove-side from a wide angle to tie things up late in the period.
The second was all Islanders, despite the shots being even at 8-8. The Isles beat the Flames to loose pucks. The Isles kept the Flames to the outside in the offensive zone. The Flames somehow became completely unable to clear a puck out of their own zone. Flames players – veterans and youngsters alike – made bone-headed decisions that ended up in the back of the net. Mark Giordano over-committed on a Flames rush, allowing Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo to go up on a 2-on-1 and beat Ortio (via an Okposo shot) to go up 2-1. A bit later, an awful back-handed neutral zone pass by Ben Hanowski was intercepted, leading to an Isles rush and a laser-beam Brock Nelson wrister that beat Ortio to make things 3-1 after 40 minutes.
About two minutes into the final frame, the Flames dug themselves a deep, dark hole: they were down by two men (Giordano and Bouma were in the box) against the team with the most 5-on-3 goals in the NHL. However, the Isles failed to capitalize on the advantage – largely passing around the perimeter and not really committing on their few chances. After that big kill, the Flames found their legs again, although both teams really didn’t execute well offensively until late in the period. When one of the teams did execute – spoiler, it was Calgary – things got out-of-hand fast. A Mark Giordano wide slap-shot bounced off the end boards and right to Joe Colborne, who batted it in to make it 3-2. A little later, Sean Monahan flipped the puck on net from the blueline. Anders Nilsson couldn’t fully glove it, so he batted it to the corner. Monahan came away with the puck, shuffled it along the boards to T.J. Galiardi, who found Monahan at the front of the net for the rookie’s 19th goal of the year to tie the game. A little while later, the Flames beat the Islanders in on a dump-in, and a Giordano point-shot was tipped by Colborne out-front to make it 4-3 for the Flames. Joni Ortio (and his posts) stood tall on a few late Islanders chances and the Flames celebrated a 4-3 win. Shots were 9-7 Flames in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
The Flames played just good enough to win in the third and the Islanders played just bad enough to lose. Through 40 minutes, this was one of the more disappointing home efforts in some time – and that’s including games where they scored zero goals – but they woke up in the third period. Guys crashed the net. Guys beat the Islanders to loose pucks. Guys made smart passes. The Flames found their game for just long enough in the third period to come away with the win. Coach Hartley probably wants to burn the tape from the first two periods, but there’s a lot of positives from the third.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Two goals for Joe Colborne on Joe Nieuwendyk Night? On the night his hero was honoured, Colborne has a really solid game.
SUM IT UP
The Flames (25-31-7) have played 63 games, so they have 19 games left this season. The rookies hit the road tomorrow night, as they head to Vancouver for a date with the Canucks. The last time these two teams met, the Flames lost in a shootout.
Oh, and Bob Hartley got fined for starting his fourth line because John Tortorella lost his damn mind. The Flames’ recent resurgence and the Canucks recent collapse can probably be charted back to that one Saturday night in Rogers Arena.
Tomorrow night is the rematch. Doncha dare miss it!