On the night before Halloween, the Calgary Flames unleashed an effort that’s bound to give their fans nightmares. Facing a Montreal Canadiens club that blew a 3-0 lead 24 hours prior up in Edmonton, the Flames lost by a 6-2 score in a game that they never led – despite them playing some pretty decent hockey through the first two periods.
In a weird game that saw the Flames out-shoot the Habs handily in the second, a Paul Byron breakaway goal and a Dale Weise hat-trick – complete with hats raining down from the Saddledome crowd – the Flames managed to repeatedly and consistently snatch defeat from the jaws of… well, not the jaws of victory, but defeat from the jaws of not defeat.
In short? It was a defensive horror show down at the old barn tonight.
It was a fairly even, back-and-forth first period, punctuated by a shift that exemplified everything that is the 2015-16 Calgary Flames. Mason Raymond had an excellent shift in the offensive zone, deking Mike Condon out of his skates and onto his butt. With a wide-open net, Raymond went the long way around and couldn’t physically tuck the puck in. The play went the other way, and Dale Weise beat Joni Ortio five-hole from the top of the face-off circle – with no tip or interference of any kind (though I’m told Russell partially screened Ortio). It’s been that kind of year. The Flames had a small edge in shots (15-13) and shot attempts (24-17) in the first, but the Habs had a face-off edge (12-10).
The Flames drew a penalty late in the first period and didn’t do much before that buzzer with the extra-man. But they generate some energy off the opening draw (with 22 seconds left on their power-play) and managed to score 27 seconds into the period. Sean Monahan chased down a loose puck on an errant pass and found Jiri Hudler with a nice pass to tie the game up 1-1. Johnny Gaudreau subsequently took an offensive zone holding call trying to chase down the puck, and after T.J. Brodie broke his stick on the penalty kill, Nathan Beaulieu lasered a slap-shot past Ortio to restore the Montreal lead at 2-1. The Flames kept battling, though, and a trio of young Flames combined for a nice tying goal. Sam Bennett chased down a puck in the Montreal end, then found Johnny Gaudreau (also skating hard into the zone) near the net for the initial shot. Mike Condon made the save but couldn’t corral the rebound, and Josh Jooris (going hard to the net) knocked in the rebound. However, the game wouldn’t stay tied up, as Dale Weise’s shot from just inside the Flames blueline – with Kris Russell partially screening Ortio – beat the Flames netminder juuuust inside the post glove-side to make it 3-2. Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell subsequently handled the puck like it was a live grenade on another Habs forecheck, coughing up the puck to former Flame Paul Byron, who fed Devante Smith-Pelly out front for a tap-in to make it 4-2 Montreal after two periods. The fact that Calgary gave up three goals in the period is perplexing, as the Flames led in shots (11-7), even-strength shots (11-2), shot attempts (20-16) and face-off wins (15-10), yet somehow gave up more goals than they allowed even-strength shots.
The wheels absolutely fell off in the final frame. With a chance to get back into the game, the Flames went on an early third-period power-play. Paul Byron scored on a short-handed breakaway to make lead 5-2. On a nightmare shift, both Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie blew tires trying to get the puck out of their own end. On the Brodie turnover, David Desharnais, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise combined on a really nice power-play, with Weise finishing it off for the hat trick. And to add insult to injury, many Montreal fans in the Saddledome threw hats onto the ice for Weise’s hattie, to the point where the Flames had to sit on the ice, down four goals in their own barn, watching attendants collect hats for a hat-trick scored against them. (Is this rock bottom? Can they possibly feel any lower than that?) The Flames were out-done in shots (10-5), even-strength shots (8-4), shot attempts (21-13), face-offs (11-10) and goals (2-0) by the visitors in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Take your pick, the shoddy goaltending or the shoddy defense. The team played well in the Montreal end for two periods and generated quite a few chances through 40 minutes. However, the team continues to play like the puck is a live hand grenade inside their own blueline, to the point where they could’ve buried the majority of chances and Montreal would’ve had a good chance to win.
Joni Ortio never made the big save the Flames needed to get a boost and stay in the game. But his defenders constantly and consistently – especially in the second half of the game – made mistake after mistake, necessitating Ortio make some heroic save. So do you blame him for not making the big saves, or blame the team around him for making them something that could swing the game? No matter how you slice it, Ortio gave up six goals and didn’t look great.
It’s yet another disappointing result and another head-shaker of a game.
Let’s go with Sam Bennett, who had an assist and buzzed around the net quite a bit. His line with Johnny Gaudreau and Josh Jooris was easily the team’s best grouping tonight.
“We’re giving up too much in the slot and scoring chances and It starts
with myself, for sure. We’re still in the game there and a couple bad
mistakes and puck’s in the back of our net. We’ve got to stay positive,
we’re going through a tough time. It seems like every bad thing that
happens, it seems like we’re not finding a way to come out of it.” – Mark Giordano
“It comes down to individual efforts. I got to be better, I don’t look
past that. I’m on for way too many goals. I’m not helping my team. I
think a lot of us have to just look in the mirror, especially myself,
and we’ve got to be better.” – Kris Russell
“It seems that every time I play a former team, I get a big goal like that. It was pretty good, for sure, to get the first one against these guys.” – Paul Byron, on where his breakaway goal against the Flames ranks
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before in a road rink.” – Paul Byron, on hats raining down for a Montreal hat trick in the Saddledome
“We miss two unbelievable scoring chances in the first that could’ve been a game-changer for us. I really like how we skated in the first and even the second period, but that third and fourth goal really hurt us, and then in the third period we didn’t generate anything. We tried, but we didn’t try the right way, it was counter-productive.” – head coach Bob Hartley assesses the game
Providence College put an absolute beating on Colgate by a 7-2 score. Legendary late-round pick Tim (Who?) Harrison had a goal and an assist, while Mark Jankowski and John Gilmour each had assists for the Friars in the win. Boston University lost to Merrimack by a 4-3 score, with Brandon Hickey scoring a goal in an unsuccessful third-period comeback bid.
The 2-8-1 Calgary Flames limp up the QE2 tonight and head to Edmonton for a date with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall.