The Flames rolled into Rexall desperate for a win tonight. Or, if not a win, at least a reasonable facsimile of a good game.
The Oilers have been Slump Busters for Calgary (and most of the league) for a better part of a decade, but there were certainly no guarantees for a Flames club who have looked like a strong contender for the Auston Matthews lottery so far.
Luckily the local heroes finally managed to pull off a regulation win. And I do mean “luckily”
Calgary was the better team in the first period and they finally got rewarded with some of the bounces that have been going against them lately. The Flames opened the scoring when recent late scratch Brandon Bollig
punched the puck into the net deflected a TJ Brodie shot behind Cam Talbot. The Oilers goalie helped make it 2-0 shortly thereafter when he inadvertantly passed the puck to Matt Stajan behind Edmonton’s net. Stajan moved it to Michael Frolik for an in easy tap in.
The Oil narrowed the gap midway through the period on a Taylor Hall deflection that snuck beneath Kari Ramo’s arm on the short side. Frolik restored Calgary’s two goal lead before the period ended when he re-directed a Kris Russell wrist shot. Calgary won the shot clock 12-8 in the opening frame and spent most of the period in the Oilers end at even strength.
Although Frolik had a pair of tallies, the big stand out of the period was TJ Brodie. Aside from assisting the Bollig goal, Brodie was a dominant defensive force for Calgary. He played a team high 8:25 and had a corsi north of 60%. He continues to be a calming force who can subtly shift the game in Calgary’s favour in a variety of ways.
The second period has famously been the Flames worst this year (outscored 19-5 heading into this game) and it looked like this one wasn’t going to be much different to start. After finishing off a penally kill from a late Mikael Backlund penalty, the Flames went right back on the PK after a questionable Josh Jooris tripping call. The breaks continued to favour Calgary however, when a Benoit Pouliot PP goal was called back after a Flames coach’s challenge. Some very minor, incidental contact with Ramo was deemed goaltender interference, which meant the Flames got to keep their two goal bulge.
That only lasted until the Oilers next PP, however. With Mark Giordano off for hooking, rookie Oilers defender Brandon Davidson rifled a howitzer over Ramo’s shoulder to get things to 3-2. The TJ Brodie show continued in earnest in the second, however, and the Flames best defender (player?) on the night made it 4-2 after a Sam Bennett pass found him in the high slot on Calgary’s only PP of the game to that point.
Giordano took another penalty on Connor McDavid to end the period, but Calgary managed to preserve a two goal advantage heading into the third for the first time this season. Shots were 10-11 Edmonton but 22-19 in favour of the Flames overall.
On the negative side of things was the struggle of the Giordano-Wideman pairing and the Monahan-Colborne-Hudler trio. That combination of Flames players were the only ones spending more time in the defensive zone to this point and it showed in Gio’s inability to stay out of the penalty box.
The Gio penalty came back to bite the Flames in the third. The Oilers cut the lead 4-3 with their second PP marker of the evening to start the final period. Teddy Purcell and Ryan Nuget Hopkins exploited shabby Flames slot coverage, which has been an issue a man down all season so far. TJ Brodie seemed to score his second of the night with a wrister from the point a few minutes later, but another goalie interference call (this one more legitimate on David Jones) canceled the goal. Bob Hartley tried another coach’s challenge, this time to no avail.
The struggles of the Monahan trio led to the Oilers game tying the game. A blind pass by Hudler from behind the Oilers net led to the Oilers breaking out with speed 3on3. Unfortunately Sean Monahan lost his man on the back check )Leon Draisatl) which allowed Taylor Hall to saucer a pass to him, setting up an easy tap in.
With the score tied, the game grew in intensity with the teams exchanging rushes and pressure, but to no avail. With about three minutes left in the period the Flames got their third PP of the game when Pouliot hooked down Dennis Wideman on the forecheck. Calgary generated a handful of chances with the man advantage, most notably a drive by Giordano, but were unable to cash in.
And then, with what looked like yet another OT game looming, Michael Frolik completed his hat trick by scoring from behind the Oilers goal line with less than 10 seconds left. It was the type of play that has haunted Calgary all year, so it was nice to see it go the other way for a change.
Why the Flames Won
Because they finally got some bounces. At least two of Frolik’s goals don’t go in most nights, plus a super rare Brandon Bollig goal got them across the finish line for their first regulation win.
Calgary still has some issues. Another sub-.900 night from their goaltending. The PK and PP both look suspect. And they’re still taking too many penalties. That said, the ES play was good (aside from the Monahan line as mentioned in the rundown), but…baby steps.
I’ll go with TJ Brodie. Two points, 60% possession ratio, team high 25 minutes of ice and was visibly the best player on the ice most of the evening. Oh, and a called off goal to boot.
Honourable mention to Michael Frolik, who was a thorn in the Oiler’s side all night. His NHL hat trick didn’t wasn’t a Remembrandt by any means, but he was good all night and consistently drove chances. In a season full of bad news, Frolik has been a rare bright spot.
The Flames try to make it two in a row against the woeful Avs in Colorado next Tuesday.