The Calgary Flames hit the road tonight in the first game of their three-game road trip, facing off against the New York Rangers.
After an early first period goal, the Flames did their best to keep pace with the Rangers. Unfortunately, a series of second period chances resulted in zero goals and the Rangers soon kicked it into gear. The Flames couldn’t come close to matching their hosts, and they ended up losing 4-1 to the Rangers.
For those hoping for a consistent 60 minute effort from the Flames, the result was a tad underwhelming.
The Flames opened the game with an early penalty, but managed to gain some momentum with a good penalty kill and then turned that momentum into an early goal off the rush. Gaudreau, Monahan and Hudler carried the puck into the zone and Gaudreau found Hudler with a really nice pass for a tap-in goal for the veteran, giving the Flames a 1-0 lead. From then on, the Rangers really pressed but the Flames did their best to keep the Rangers attackers to the outside with some nice structure. The Flames were lucky, though, as Kevin Hayes had a gorgeous chance on their power-play and couldn’t bury it. Shots were 8-8 in the first, with the Rangers having a 22-10 shot attempt lead. The Flames went 10-7 at the face-off dot.
If there was one period that best represented this game for the Flames, it was the second. They had tons of chances and lots of pressure, including an early power-play that could’ve made their lead 2-0. However, despite tons of zone time they couldn’t capitalize, and the Rangers scored off the rush – taking advantage of some chaos in Calgary’s defensive coverage, allowing Oscar Lindberg to slide through the slot and tap in a really nice Kevin Hayes feed to tie it. Four minutes later, more nice passing amidst the Flames running around their own end allowed Dan Girardi to beat Jonas Hiller to give the Rangers the 2-1 lead. Calgary led in shots (10-5) and shot attempts (22-14) in the second, but the Rangers won more face-offs (9-7) and goals, which was all that mattered.
The Flames seemed very gun-shy in the third, seemingly worried about biffing on more nice chances like they did in the second. The Rangers kept pressing, and after Jonas Hiller kicked out a gigantic rebound off an initial shot, Kevin Klein took advantage of the D-zone chaos – notice a trend? – and beat a flailing Hiller on the second or third chance the Rangers had following the initial shot. Derrick Brassard later made it 4-1 off a wrister with four players – two of them Flames defensemen – screening Hiller. Joni Ortio came in late in the game and got some work in, making five saves. Shots were 13-5 Rangers in the third, shot attempts were close to even (18-17 Rangers) and face-offs were even. Granted, much of that was score effect, as the Rangers coasted to victory after scoring that third goal.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Two major reasons.
They couldn’t take advantage of the chances they were given, often just missing passes or double-clutching at the last minute, despite getting a tremendous amount of zone time in the first 40 minutes. And after that, the Rangers stepped up their defensive coverage and didn’t give them many more chances.
And oddly, despite their defensive depth being considered their big strength organizationally, the Flames were often a clown show in their own zone. We’re talking big rim-around passes/dump-outs around the zone getting intercepted frequently. We’re talking about lots of lazy chip-out attempts. The Flames were their own worst enemy in this game, as not only did they not bury their own chances, they seemed to spend an awful lot of time hell-bent on creating chances for the Rangers.
In that sense, they were successful, as basically all four goals were a result of the Flames being woeful in their own end. They weren’t awful, but they also were particularly good overall.
Sam Bennett was full of piss and vinegar all evening, and I thought that his line with Derek Grant and Josh Jooris was Calgary’s best overall. Bennett was physical, really worked in the corners and tried to generate chances, and it was easily his best game as a pro.
And a stick-tap to Johnny Gaudreau, who was good for the first two periods and then faded in the third.
Mason McDonald made 30 saves in Charlottetown’s 4-3 overtime win over Acadie-Bathurst.
Andrew Mangiapane had a hat-trick in Barrie’s 5-3 win over Oshawa.
The Flames better get their act together, gang, as they’re back in action across the East River tomorrow night as they visit the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. Puck drop is 5pm MT on Sportsnet West.