It was a playoff-like atmosphere at the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight, as the Western Conference’s two wild-card teams clashed in an effort to cement their playoff hopes. After a spirited sixty minutes of ice hockey, the Calgary Flames skated to a 5-2 win over the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
With the victory, the Flames creep a bit closer to the Jets and maintain a game in hand against their conference rivals.
Here’s how things went down tonight.
The Flames weren’t great early-on, getting caught in their own zone off the get-go and giving up the game’s first goal just 1:09. The Jets’ top line cycled the puck and eventually Blake Wheeler scored to make it 1-0 Jets. However, the Flames decided not to wait until the third to tie it up. On a nice read on a bad Jets line change, Mark Giordano found David Jones (and a seam) in center ice, allowing Jones to go in and put a back-hander on net. The back-hander squeaked through Michael Hutchison to tie the game. The rest of the first was rather back and forth. Johnny Gaudreau left briefly late in the period with a wrist issue, but returned for the start of the second. Shots were 8-6 Calgary, though the Jets held the edge in shot attempts (21-18) and face-off wins (12-7).
The second period was fairly even, and featured a few great Jets scoring chances…and zero Jets goals. Mark Scheifele had a golden chance in the period, deking past both Flames defenders and putting the puck wide of the net. The puck proceeded to carom into the neutral zone off Sven Baertschi’s stick, where Mason Raymond turned on the jets, caught up and beat Hutchison top-corner to make it 2-1. The Flames were much less frantic and panicky in their own zone this period, and that allowed them to keep pace, more or less, with the Jets. Shots were 8-6 Calgary, shot attempts were 18-16 Winnipeg, and Calgary held a slight 12-10 face-off edge in the middle frame.
The Flames entered the third with a narrow lead, something they’d done 11 times previous this season. They added three goals in the finale frame and won, fairly handily, 5-2. The goals generally came from unlikely sources. Raphael Diaz cranked one from the point on the power-play off some nice cycling – and Lance Bouma leapt out of the way – to give Calgary a 3-1 lead. Brandon Bollig was absolutely gifted a goal – his first as a Calgary Flame – off a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Joe Colborne to make it 4-1. Bryan Little banged in a rebound shortly after, cutting the lead to 4-2, but the Jets pulled their goalie and Sean Monahan added an empty-netter to ice it. The Flames out-shot the Jets 12-7, but the visitors held a slight edge in shot attempts (24-18) and face-off wins (13-11).
WHY THE FLAMES WON
After a shaky start, they calmed down. And rather than taking 30 or 40 minutes to find their stride, they really seemed to hit their marks after 10 or 15 minutes. They played a fairly disciplined, mature 60 minutes of ice hockey, and they were rewarded with a few goals and another win.
Joe Colborne had a pair of assists, including a really nice cross-ice pass to Brandon Bollig for the tap-in (and Bollig’s first as a Flame). Colborne’s been quietly effective for awhile and he was solid once more for the home side.
For the curious, Mark Giordano played his 500th career game and got the fireman’s helmet for his efforts.
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SUM IT UP
Fresh off this big win, the Flames (28-20-3) regroup and are thrown right back into the frying pan on Wednesday night. The opponents? The San Jose Sharks, who sit just ahead of them in the Pacific Division standings. It’s a later game than usual, with an 8pm MT start on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet One. There’s a game on earlier on Sportsnet West, so if you’re PVRing, go SN One.