It had all the trimmings of an American Hockey League clash.
The Calgary Flames, without Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Lance Bouma for disciplinary reasons, faced a Toronto Maple Leafs team missing five regulars. The Flames played fairly well early-on and spotted themselves a lead – having an edge of up to 4-1 at one point – and then clung on for dear life en route to a bowling shoe ugly 4-3 victory in front of a very blue (and partisan) crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The ugly ones count the same as the pretty ones, but the Flames are probably just gonna dispose of tonight’s game tape.
The opening period was rather back-and-forth, and punctuated by special teams play. The Flames shuffled their lines throughout the period, which made things a bit chaotic. With Matt Stajan in the box for holding, Michael Frolik floated a flip-pass over the Leafs defenders to Markus Granlund, who skated in alone and beat James Reimer short-handed to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. The lead was short-lived, though, as Patrick Holland tipped a Frankie Corrado pass past Jonas Hiller to tie the game up just 56 seconds later. However, the Flames answered back late in the period with a power-play goal of their own, as Mikael Backlund tipped a Dougie Hamilton offering past Reimer to make it 2-1 at the intermission. Shots were 10-9 Toronto, while attempts were 22-19 Toronto as well.
The Flames kept chugging along in the second. Micheal Ferland got a tap-in off a nice feed from under the red line from Joe Colborne to make it 3-1. After an icing, Granlund won a face-off back to Hamilton, who beat Reimer with a wrister from the point to make it 4-1. However, Josh Leivo blew past Deryk Engelland and sprung a 2-on-1, and with Ladislav Smid playing the pass, Leivo wristed one past Hiller to make it 4-2. Shots in the second were 10-13 Toronto and attempts were 24-16 Toronto.
Toronto ate Calgary’s lunch in the third period. I’d wager that roughly 80% of the game took place in the Flames end. They defended intelligently early-on, but much like a boxer who takes a lot of shots early in a fight, eventually they got worn down and gave up nice and nice chances. Ironically, the Leafs goal was from a muffin of a shot from outside the face-off dot from Jake Gardiner that found a way past Hiller’s glove hand to make it 4-3. But despite the Flames pretending they had a penalty to kill for roughly the, uh, third period, they held on to win. Somehow. Shots were 13-3 and attempts were 28-8, both for Toronto.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
It’s probably overly generous to say that the Flames won. They survived. The Leafs aren’t a good team. And the Flames were better than them in the first, they were about even in the second, and they were basically holding on for dear life in the final frame.
Y’know, let’s go with Dougie Hamilton, as he had a goal and an assist and was generally skating around quite nicely.
And Markus Granlund was also pretty good before the whole team started playing lousy in the third period.
The Flames hit the road for a pair of crucially important Pacific Division battles. They visit the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night and the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night.