The Calgary Flames hate regulation wins. They absolutely loathe them. So much so tonight that they seemingly frittered away their 4-1 third period lead just to get to the sweet, sweet excitement of 3-on-3 overtime.
Regardless of why they did it, the Flames were guilty of letting the New York Rangers back into the game, but they were also just good enough to win, as T.J. Brodie’s goal cemented a 5-4 overtime win for the locals and their fifth straight victory of the season. It was a game that was borderline-unwatchable for a good chunk of the second period, but good pretty interesting by the very end.
And by “interesting,” I mean that the Flames let their prejudice against regulation wins completely crater their defensive-zone play and allowed the Rangers to make the game pretty interesting in the dying minutes.
The hosts got out of the gates quickly getting up by a 7-1 margin on the shot clock (including being up 5-0 to open the game at even-strength). Then, after a poor power-play by the Flames, the Rangers pushed back and ended up trying the Flames with shots in the first at 9-9 (attempts were 17-17). The Rangers opened the scoring midway through the period, with Mark Giordano getting beat by Kevin Hayes on a chip-in, leaving T.J. Brodie to deal with J.T. Miller and Victor Stalberg on a 2-on-1. Stalberg fed Miller for the tap-in to make it 1-0.
The second period was one to be skipped, aside from a pair of really nice late goals. The teams didn’t generate a whole heck of a lot, even though each had a power-play. It felt a lot like the Rangers were exerting their will, particularly in keeping the pace slow and the game low-event. The drudgery of the period was interrupted with about two and a half minutes remaining, as was an errant Rangers clearing attempt. Johnny Gaudreau intercepted the puck and went top-corner with a nice wrister that beat Antti Raanta and tied the game. On the very next shift, Michael Frolik stole the puck just inside the Flames blueline and went on a 2-on-1 with Mason Raymond, finding Raymond with a tremendous saucer pass for the tap-in goal to make it 2-1 for the home side, just 17 seconds after their first goal. Shots were 10-5 Flames – primarily late in the period – and shot attempts were 19-16 Flames.
The third period had two halves to it: the one where the Flames were good and generated chances, and the one where they tried to hold on for dear life. Johnny Gaudreau got his second goal early in the period on a really nice feed from David Jones that sprung him on a breakaway to make it 3-1. A few shifts later, Joe Colborne buried his own rebound (off a nice feed from Matt Stajan) to make it 4-1. Tanner Glass banged home a rebound in the Flames end to make it 4-2. And that began the “Flames hemmed in their own end” segment of the period, in which the Flames pretended they were on the penalty kill. After Dan Boyle scored to make it 4-3 – walking in with the puck to tuck it past Hiller – the Flames took a couple penalties in succession late and the Rangers finally scored. Mats Zuccarello beat a screened Hiller with just over a minute left to tie up the game at 4-4. The Rangers out-shot the Flames 15-6 and out-attempted them 24-14.
And so we went to overtime. And after a few chances in both directions, Kris Russell found T.J. Brodie with a gorgeous stretch pass and Brodie beat Raanta to make it a 5-4 final. Shots were 2-0 Flames in overtime, with attempts 3-2 for the Flames.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Well, they weren’t particularly good or bad for the chunk of the game. They were better for about 10 minutes in the late second and early third period, and then in overtime. They were pretty ugly in their own end, especially late against a tired and desperate Rangers team, but they were also just good enough to not lose.
Their penalty kill was actually pretty good until the third period when the entire team seemingly forgot how to play defensive hockey. So let’s take that as a net positive and try to ignore the remainder of the third where the Flames blew a three-goal lead at home against a team that played the night before (in a different city).
They call Johnny Gaudreau “Johnny Hockey” because he’s good at hockey. Not only is he good at hockey, but right now he’s what makes the Flames offensive machine tick. While the team around him has had its moments here and there of late, Gaudreau is the catalyst that has allowed them to win games.
He had three points tonight and was easily their best player, though T.J. Brodie and Sean Monahan were also quite good.
Down in Texas, the Stockton Heat lost 5-2 to the Texas Stars – Pat Sieloff and Bryce van Brabant had the Heat goals. In Medicine Hat, Nick Schneider made 32 saves in the Tigers 5-3 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Flames leave their home-stand with a 13-14-2 record. They’re off tomorrow, and then they hit the road. They play Nashville on Tuesday night in the Music City to kick off their three-game sojourn through the Central Division (and then a game against Detroit to finish off the road trip).