The Calgary Flames came into tonight with a record above .500 and were facing a team that were coming off their first regulation loss of the season (against Edmonton, of all teams). The Capitals came into the Saddledome tonight and played with structure and, at times, poise and desperation.
In contrast, particularly in the third, the Flames looked like a team that that had lost their nerve during a 3-1 home loss on Saturday night.
The Flames and Capitals played a fairly tentative first period until about the halfway mark. With Joe Colborne in the box for a “trip” on Alex Ovechkin – it was a knee-on-knee collision, but neither guy seemed worse for wear – the Flames cleared their zone, as they usually do. Lance Bouma rimmed the puck around the boards to Deryk Engelland in the neutral zone. Engelland bobbled the puck, Joel Ward claimed it and beat Karri Ramo for a power-play marker (that everyone probably wants back). However, the Flames responded late on a power-play of their own (with Troy Brouwer in the box for roughing Matt Stajan). Sean Monahan won a draw, and a few passes later, Dennis Wideman fired home his fifth of the year – he had four all of last season – to tie things up. The Capitals led the Flames in shots (9-6), shot attempts (14-10) and face-offs (10-9).
The Flames seemed to loose their ability to execute in the second period. Brandon Bollig sent a pass to nobody at the point, ending a period of offensive pressure and creating a Capitals scoring opportunity (that thankfully stayed away from the net). Joel Ward scored again, this time after a Flames line change; linemate Michael Latta shrugged off a Ladislav Smid check and fed Ward, who knocked in a loose puck in the slot for a 2-1 lead. The Flames got some nice pressure later in the period – particularly off some cycles in the offensive zone from the Gaudreau/Raymond/Backlund line – but they couldn’t get any good scoring chances and closed out the period trailing by a goal. Josh Jooris got nailed twice on a shift by Brooks Orpik – once from behind and once up-high – leading to a brief skirmish with Bollig. Both guys only got coincidental minors, which was odd, but at least they showed some emotion. Washington led in the second in shots (13-9) and face-offs (10-9), but the Flames had slightly more shot attempts (21-20).
The Flames lacked emotion and execution for the most part in the third, particularly after Nicklas Backstrom scored off a beautiful wrister early in the period to give the Capitals a 3-1 lead on the road. From then on, the Caps managed the game well; clogging up the neutral zone, forcing the Flames to chip and chase, and in many ways doing to Calgary what the Flames did to Winnipeg about a week ago. The Flames didn’t generate much and despite pulling the goalie and pressing, they really deflated after going down a pair. Washington led in shots (8-6) and shot attempts (18-15) in the final period, while face-offs were even at 10 apiece.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Despite containing Alex Ovechkin’s line, the Flames were unable to find a counter to the structured defensive play of the Capitals. The visitors succeeded in dictating the pace and style of play to the home side, in short because they had the personnel, work ethic and nerve to do so. Outside of their power-play goal late in the first, the Flames weren’t ever able to get their legs going because Washington didn’t allow them to.
And two rough goals allowed by your bottom defense pairing are tough to come back from, especially against a team as good as Washington.
It’s hard to really find a Flames player who stood out very much, but give the nod tonight to Matt Stajan. Matty Franchise was matched up against Ovechkin for a chunk of the game are fared well, and he took the most face-offs for the team and won most of them.
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SUM IT UP
The Flames lost a tough game to an opponent that played a smart, structured game and took advantage of their mistakes. They’re now 5-4-1 on the year. They don’t have time to wallow, though, as they’re back at it on Tuesday night against another tough opponent, the Montreal Canadiens. Puck drop is at 7pm MT and the game airs on Sportsnet Flames (and on Sportsnet 960 radio like always).