Home cooking served up a five game win streak, but we all wondered if the Flames could continue to crawl back into the playoff conversation when they set out on this difficult road trip.
They managed to keep things going against the Predators in Nashville the other night, but the Dallas Stars were an even bigger challenge. The West’s scariest offense and top team saw Calgary storm back from a three goal deficit the last time these two teams met, so you can be sure they had this date circled on their calendar.
Unfortunately for them, the Flames managed to orchestrate a different kind of upset tonight.
The first was reminiscent of the last few Flames games, with the club struggling out of the gate. Though they weren’t as fundamentally outplayed as they were to start in Nashville, it took Calgary almost half the period to get a shot on net – a harmless, long distance drive from Ferland.
Also familiar? The perpetually ineffectual Flames PP. Calgary drew two penalties in the period and managed as many shots on net (1) as the Stars managed short handed goals. Yuck.
The PP also featured a new look first unit with Johnny Gaudreau, Mason Raymond (?) and Joe Colborne (??). The change wasn’t beneficial. The Stars SHG came when a face-off scramble somehow resulted in an odd man rush, with former Hawk Johnny Oduya finishing the play. The good news is, Calgary also had to kill a penalty and they actually did for a change!
Despite continuing to be terrible at 5on4, the Flames managed to reel things at the end of the period. Sean Monahan tied things up by rifling a top corner shot on a 2on1 after a fancy chip feed from Gaudreau in the defensive zone. Dallas pressed again in the final four minutes of the first, but it was Dougie Hamilton who scored with one-timed a Colborne feed near the top of the circle. Dallas won the shot clock battle, but the Flames were up by one after one.
The second period was far more balanced but less eventful. Both teams traded chances and pressure at even strength, a vast improvement for Calgary who were outplayed at 5on5 in the first (in terms of territorial play, though not score). Another Flames PP early in the period didn’t result in a goal but it did finally generate some momentum, with Calgary creating a number of high quality chances and nine shots on net (!). Progress.
The back and forth was broken with just a few minutes left when Mason Raymond fired a seeing eye shot through a double screen created by Backlund and Jones in front of Kari Lehtonen. Calgary outshot the Stars 13-9 in the period and 21-19 overall through two.
The Stars pressed the attack in the third period in an effort to tie the game. Wave after wave of Dallas offensive zone pressure crashed over the Flames defenders, who were on their heels for the entire period. Jamie Been and Tyler Seguin were double shifted and the Stars’ dynamic duo generated more than a few quality chances.
Fortunately Calgary got something they had yet to see this season: a game stealing performance from a goaltender. Kari Ramo, who looked like an ECHL ‘tender the last time these two clubs met, stood on his head in the final frame, making more than a few 10-bell saves. As a result Calgary managed to maintain the two-goal margin and steal the win despite being outshot 17-6 in the final frame.
Why The Flames Won
Because they were opportunistic and their goaltending was above average. Calgary was the 2nd best team on the ice for at least two thirds of this game, but they got the benefit of some bounces and some high quality netminding (basically none of the things they were getting in October and November)
The Red Warrior
Let’s go with Ramo. Calgary’s crease play has been justifiably maligned this season, but tonight Ramo was the primary difference between victory and defeat. Getting completely outplayed by the best offense in the league isn’t a great game plan, but sometimes you get away with it when the puck stopper is in the zone.
It doesn’t get much easier from here. Calgary continues the sojourn in St. Louis this Saturday afternoon (1pm).