In a crucial Game 4 for both sides, the Calgary Flames played a pretty strong first ten minutes and got a two-goal lead. However, the veteran Anaheim Ducks steadied themselves, and between some veteran poise from the Ducks and some errors by the team’s youngsters led to a narrow 4-2 Ducks win.
The loss puts the Flames at a 3-1 disadvantage in the series, which continues with its fifth game on Sunday night in Anaheim. The Ducks can advance to the Western Conference Final with a win at home.
The Flames got off to a great start! They did give up an early power-play goal to the Ducks, as Jakub Silfverberg beat Karri Ramo top-shelf when his shot deflected off T.J. Brodie’s stick and evaded him. However, the Flames out-shot the Ducks by a 9-2 margin in the first half of the first period. 39 seconds after the Silfverberg goal, they tied it up. Johnny Gaudreau sped into the zone, darted between two defenders and drove the net. Sean Monahan knocked in the rebound! 53 seconds after that, Micheal Ferland – newly returned to the line-up – drove into the offensive zone and leaned into a shot that beat Frederik Andersen to give Calgary a 2-1 lead! The Ducks pressed late, and the Flames displayed a complete inability to clear their zone, but they didn’t give up anything more.
It was a teeter-totter second period – rushes to one end, then rushes back to the other end. The Flames defended reasonably well, and Ducks were generally unable to hit a net, so they held onto the lead. However, after a big penalty kill late in the period on a too many men penalty, Johnny Gaudreau lost the puck in the offensive zone, and Andrew Cogliano scored to tie it up late. Shots were 9-8 Anaheim in the second, and Joe Colborne took an ill-advised double-minor for high-sticking on a dumb play at the buzzer.
The Ducks took an early lead on the ensuing four-minute power-play, with Matt Beleskey knocking in a rebound to give the Ducks a 3-2 lead. The game was reasonably even from then on out. The Ducks took a couple of dumb penalties mid-way through the period, with T.J. Brodie got hooked and Johnny Gaudreau got held up, so the Flames got a five-on-three.
The Flames generated zero shots on their two-man advantage, and two shots on all their power-plays on the night. Yikes.
They pulled the goalie late, the Flames couldn’t get anything organized in terms of an attack, and Patrick Maroon scored on an empty net to ice this one. Shots were 11-8 for Anaheim in the final frame.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Okay, a lot of people are going to blame Joe Colborne. And yes, Colborne’s penalty was pretty dumb. He was trying to finish his check at the buzzer, and got his hands up, and that kind of thing happens sometimes.
But hey, there are two big things I want to point the Finger of Blame at.
First: Calgary could not carry the puck into Anaheim’s end to save their lives, particularly in the second and third periods. Down a goal with your season on the line? Dump and chase isn’t a great strategy, especially considering how Calgary’s multi-layered zone entries really frustrated the Ducks in the first 10 minutes of the opening period. They had a strategy that worked, and for some reason abandoned it when they needed it the most.
Second: Calgary was pretty lousy in their own end. Weird turnovers and a complete inability to consistently chip the puck out of the zone – let alone carry it out – led to tired defenders and progressively worse judgment.
Calgary gave up a goal on Colborne’s penalty. Fine. He’ll wear that, particularly if the season ends on Sunday. But the Flames had 18:49 remaining in the game to get a single goal, including a fairly long two-man advantage. They generated nothing of substance. That’s not on Colborne.
Sean Monahan had a goal, led the Flames with 5 shots on net, and was 56% at the face-off dot while playing 22 minutes. He’s most likely not 100% – nobody is right now – but he played a pretty solid game, all things considered.
And a stick-tap to Karri Ramo, who didn’t get much help as the game went on, and Johnny Gaudreau, who worked his tail off, drew penalties and really seemed to spark the team as much as he could.
SUM IT UP
Game 5 is on Sunday night.
If the Calgary Flames lose, their improbable season is over.
It is, by definition, a must-win game.