If there was ever a game where the good, the bad and the ugly of the Calgary Flames was laid out bare for the hockey world to behold, it was tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
For just shy of 40 minutes, the Flames played a very intelligent, measured and confident road game. The glass at one end of the ice got knocked out and so they played the last minute of the second period right before the beginning of the third and went to intermission early. Then the train went off the tracks and we went straight to crazy town.
When the game finally ended, it was a 5-4 shootout loss for the Flames, who mercifully got a point from their insane three-game road trip.
Nobody scored in the first period, though the Flames carried play at 5-on-5. They didn’t generate much on their lone power-play, but they also defended well on Ottawa’s only power-play of the first.
The teams exchanged goals in the second period, another span where the Flames generally dictated the pace but were unlucky enough to only get one goal. Dougie Hamilton scored on a nice wrister, coming right after a Flames penalty kill and a clean zone entry from Jiri Hudler. Hudler waited inside the line, Ottawa couldn’t close the passing lanes and Hamilton scored off the rush. Zach Smith responded with a couple minutes left in the second, collecting a Josh Jooris turnover in the Flames end and shrugging off Kris Russell’s coverage – both Russell and Jonas Hiller probably want that goal back. We had a break here for the early intermission, and then Bobby Ryan scored on a nice pass from Kyle Turris from behind the net – with Mikael Backlund standing behind Ryan watching the pass – to make it 2-1 before the official end of the second.
The third? Craziest period ever. After whiffing on an empty net in the first, Joe Colborne made it right, as a 3-man rush involving him, Hudler and Sean Monahan ended up with Hudler whiffing on a shot but the puck bouncing right to Colborne, who tucked it past Craig Anderson to tie it up. Then Kris Russell scored off a knuckle-ball shot that squeaked through Anderson – off a gorgeous set-up by Sam Bennett preceded by some great puck protection by the rookie. That made it 3-2 for the Flames. Time to tighten up the defense, right? Nope. Ottawa scored twice in 18 seconds. With the Flames completed turned inside out and upside down in their own end – shades of every game (except for Detroit) this season – Kyle Turris jumped on a loose puck to tie it. Immediately afterwards, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored off another scramble that the Flames could not clear out to make it 4-3 Ottawa. At this point, Jonas Hiller was knocked out of the game when Michael Frolik knocked an off-balance Bobby Ryan into his netminder, leading Joni Ortio to come into the game in relief. Somehow that generated a penalty, and Sam Bennett scored on the power-play to tie the game and send it to overtime. Shots were 16-12 Calgary in the third, but the game had wild swings and it’s hard to say any team was “better,” but Calgary was definitely luckier.
Nothing was settled in overtime, though both teams had good chances. Weird choice by the Flames, though: Sam Bennett (who had the game-tying goal) didn’t hit the ice at all during three-on-three overtime. Memorable: Johnny Gaudreau felt he had been hacked at by Erik Karlsson and went to check him by the Flames bench. The gate fell open and both Gaudreau and Karlsson tumbled into the bench.
Kyle Turris and Mika Zibenejad scored in the shootout, while Joe Colborne scored for Calgary, giving Ottawa the narrow victory.
WHY THE FLAMES GOT A POINT
They were unlucky enough to be trailing after 40 minutes despite being the better team throughout the first two periods. Then they were lucky enough to get two good bounces on two shots that ended up being goals in the third, and they were lucky enough that the officials chose to give the Senators a penalty on the Hiller collision.
Don’t get me wrong, they worked hard, but they were pretty bad for a big chunk of the third period and would’ve deserved the loss had they gotten it. But they managed to take advantage of the chances they got in the third, got the right bounces, and they’re flying home with a point rather than with nothing.
Sam Bennett was easily the Flames best player tonight. He had two points, important points in the third, and he could’ve had more. His newfound pairing with Johnny Gaudreau could end up being magical once they figure out each other’s tendencies.
Stick-tap to T.J. Brodie, who played a ton (25:10) in his first game of the season.
The Flames fly home with a 2-7-1 record and prepare to face the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens on Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.