The Calgary Flames battled back from a defensively shaky first period (and a two-goal hole) and carved their names into the franchise record books with a 5-3 victory tonight over the Edmonton Oilers.
The win represents a few big milestones: it’s the first win from a home team in the Battle of Alberta this season, it’s just the second time the Flames have been above. 500 all season (not the first), and it’s their 11th straight home victory, setting a new franchise record.
The locals came out of the gates strong and had the Oilers on their heels early, getting out to a 6-1 shot advantage before they crashed back down to Earth in the second half of the period. After the Flames failed to figure out what to do with the puck on an offensive rush, the Oilers came back and generated a nifty tip-in goal from Benoit Pouliot (off a Jordan Eberle shot) to make it 1-0. The Oilers kept pushing and scored another one before the period was complete, as some defensive confusion amongst Lance Bouma, Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland with the puck on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ stick ended up the way you’d think it would – with an Edmonton goal, again from Pouliot. Shots were 10-8 Flames in the opening period, while attempts were 21-20 Edmonton. It was an even statistical period, but the Oilers were more dangerous.
The middle frame was both awesome and terrible. If you like defensive hockey, you probably hated it. Neither team was great in their own end. But there were goals a-plenty. Calgary’s two best players connected on the first Flames goal, as T.J. Brodie went for a skate and found human highlight reel Johnny Gaudreau in the slot to make it 2-1. The Flames had a power-play but failed to generate much, to the point where their entire unit got stuck in the offensive zone as the Oilers sprung Teddy Purcell for a breakaway just after the advantage expired, and he buried it for a 3-1 lead. However, the Flames soon took a penalty – Joe Colborne took a silly holding-the-stick penalty just as the Flames were breaking out of their own end – and their killers came up huge. Markus Granlund and Matt Stajan were sprung on a 2-on-1 and after the initial chance didn’t go in, Stajan kept at it and knocked in the third or fourth rebound to make it 3-2. Later still, after a nice sequence from Granlund’s line and Mikael Backlund’s line led to a Flames power-play, Mark Giordano powered a slapper past Anders Nilsson to tie the game. And to complete the period, with 32 seconds remaining Sean Monahan induced an Oilers giveaway, leaving Gaudreau all by his lonesome with the puck, which he chipped top-shelf past Nilsson to give Calgary their first lead of the game. Shots in the second were 20-12 Flames and attempts were 28-22 Flames. The Flames got better as the period chugged along (and the Oilers got worse).
The final frame was fairly even, given that neither club really gave the other very much and after the river hockey that we saw in the second, both teams made an effort to reel things in. Johnny Gaudreau pressed for a hat trick and drew a late penalty, and after some struggles gaining the zone, the Flames finally iced it as Mark Giordano scored his second of the game (and second power-play goal of the game) for insurance. Shots were 11-7 Edmonton while shot attempts were 23-16 for the visitors as well.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
For once, the Flames won the special teams battle. They got their first short-handed goal of the season, on a man-advantage that could’ve put them down 4-1. And they got a pair of power-play goals – the first time they’ve scored twice in a game in that situation.
It also helps that Johnny Gaudreau didn’t need to score all the goals himself.
Let’s go with Sam Bennett, who was great on the forecheck, created chances, drew penalties and generally made the Oilers frustrated all night long.
And to be honest, a lot of guys had good games. Aside from Jiri Hudler floating around the offensive zone and the continuing misadventures of the Wideman/Engelland pairing in the defensive end, I can’t think of anybody that really made me cringe during the contest.
The Calgary Hitmen beat Kootenay 4-0, with Pavel Karnaukhov assisting on the game-opening/game-winning power-play goal.
The Stockton Heat weren’t nearly as fortunate, losing 5-1 to the San Jose Barracuda in San Jose. Joni Ortio gave up four goals for the sixth time (in 11 starts) this season and got chased from the game.
The Flames are above .500 and back in action in another divisional clash on Tuesday night as they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the Scotiabank Saddledome.