The Calgary Flames had a golden opportunity tonight, facing a team that had lost their last five games and heading into this game with wins in three of their last four games themselves.
But rather than assert themselves and take control of the game, the Flames were instead pulled into the muck by the Florida Panthers and due to some iffy defensive play in their own end at a key time, lost tonight by a 4-3 score.
The good news? At least they kept it close and didn’t give up an empty-netter late. The bad news? They let a chance to close the gap in the Western Conference playoff race slip through their fingers.
The Flames probably aimed to come out of the gates with a bang. Unfortunately, their approach led to a fight and two Florida power-plays. Vincent Trocheck opened the scoring with Kris Russell in the box for interference (off a loose puck that Karri Ramo probably wishes he could’ve corralled). Less than two minutes later, though, David Jones teed one up and put it past Roberto Luongo to tie the game. However, as the period wound down, Reilly Smith beat Ramo off another rebound to give Florida a narrow 2-1 lead going into the intermission. Shots in the first were 11-9 Florida, while shot attempts were 18-15 for the hosts.
Florida increased their lead a few minutes into the second, as Aaron Ekblad beat Ramo with a nice one-timer to make it 3-1. It stayed that way for just a few minutes, as David Jones scored his second of the game. With Jonathan Huberdeau in the box for tripping Jones, the Flames finally evened things up, with Sean Monahan sliding from the high slot and knocked a rebound past Luongo to make it 3-3. Shots in the second were 12-11 Calgary. Shot attempts were 21-15 Florida.
The Panthers played a smart game in the third, doing their best to minimize high-danger scoring chances and make the Flames run around. Shots were just 7-7 and Florida had a narrow 16-14 lead in shot attempts – both reflecting their commitment to a low-event third period. However, a defensive gaffe by T.J. Brodie behind the Flames net mid-way through the period allowed Jaromir Jagr to scoop up a rebound and beat Karri Ramo for the game-winner. The Flames pulled the goalie and pushed, but just couldn’t beat Luongo late – or really generate a ton of late chances.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
This was the type of sleepy road game where it was bound to be determined by the proverbial “next goal.” The Flames couldn’t generate enough late chances to score that late goal, nor could they induce enough Florida mistakes to give them more chances (or to trigger a power-play), but they made just one too many mistakes in their own end and it came back to bite them.
The Flames weren’t awful, but they just weren’t good enough to take control of the game when it mattered most. And while I hate to throw the goalie under the bus, Karri Ramo’s lack of rebound control led directly to a pair of goals, which was enough to tilt the game.
(All situations, sorted by offensive zone starts.)
David Jones got buried in terms of zone starts, yet he scored twice and drew the penalty that led to the third Flames goal. He was good throughout tonight’s game, as was his line with Joe Colborne and Matt Stajan.
The Flames (5-10-1) get tomorrow off and stay in the state of Florida, as they have a date on Thursday evening with the Tampa Bay Lightning.