The Calgary Flames played an awful first period tonight. One of their worst all season. Heck, maybe one of the worst in several seasons. But then they bounced back and played good enough to win, but made enough miscues that they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once more.
A bad penalty to Mark Giordano and a defensive miscue by Dennis Wideman was enough to cement Calgary’s 11th regulation loss of the season, by a 3-1 score to the host Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Flames were baaad in the first. They didn’t get their first carry into the Lightning zone until five minutes into the game. Tampa dominated zone time, and somehow only held a 11-8 edge in shots and 25-13 edge in attempts after the period. Mercifully, the Flames didn’t give up a goal.
Maybe because they had seen the video of the first and were shocked at how listless they were, the Flames played a better second period – yet it was some defensive zone wonkiness that cost them. Brian Boyle bobbled the puck in the offensive zone, to Ramo’s left. Basically everybody on the road team thought the bobble was an attempted pass, which left coverage (and Ramo) more or less open to Boyle’s shot to make it 1-0. The Flames answered later in the period, with the team solving Tampa’s “box-out” defense by having Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund arrange a sly tip-in play, with 19-year-old Bennett’s tip finding its way past Ben Bishop to tie it up. Shots were 15-7 for the Flames, who also led 24-14 in shot attempts.
The third was basically two periods. The Flames and Lightning played structured, smart hockey. It seemed that overtime was inevitable. Then Mark Giordano took a tripping penalty – it was borderline, but they had gotten some calls go their way over the past week, so you can’t use that as a crutch – and Steven Stamkos was left all alone at the side of the net on the man-advantage to make it 2-1. The Flames tried to press for an equalizer, but both Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman made defensive miscues that kept play in Calgary’s end. And finally, the superb passing of Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson had Wideman spinning around like a top, allowing Johnson the tap-in for the 3-1 lead. The Flames pulled their goalie but nothing came of it, and they fell for the second straight contest. Shots were 11-8 Tampa in the third, and attempts were closer with Tampa having a narrow 22-21 lead.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
They were just bad enough in their own end – with the Giordano penalty and the Wideman miscues – in the third period to lose. And they were extremely lucky to be tied after 40 minutes given how ugly their first 10 minutes of hockey were. Their defensive play in the opening frame basically gave Tampa Bay a lot of free power-play practice.
Bless Karri Ramo, he deserved better than what he got. When the team was bad in the first, he was really good. You can’t hang this loss on him, and he made 26 saves to keep them in it until the bitter end.
Sam Bennett was also really good, as if that’s a surprise.
The Flames hop onto a plane and fly up the East Coast, as they’ll face the powerhouse Washington Capitals tomorrow night in D.C.
SUM IT UP
So I’ve heard this Auston Matthews kid is pretty good.
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) November 13, 2015