After a mixed bag of a road trip in San Jose and Arizona, the Calgary Flames returned home this afternoon hoping to exploit their home ice success and generate some much-needed momentum (and points) against the Anaheim Ducks.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way, and the team struggled to fight back against a bigger, more-skilled Ducks squad. Ultimately, their flagging penalty kill was once again their undoing en route to a 6-4 home loss to the Ducks.
If you hate goaltenders, you probably loved the first period. It was Club Flames Day at the ‘Dome – basically the team’s kids day – and the first period taught the message “Just put it on net, kids.” On the power-play, Johnny Gaudreau opened the scoring by going to the net, going for the puck and having both himself and the puck pushed past Frederik Andersen to make it 1-0. With Micheal Ferland in the box, Hampus Lindholm tied it up by wristing a puck past a screened Jonas Hiller to make it 1-1. That barely lasted as Dougie Hamilton scored 3 seconds into Calgary’s second power-play (with David Perron in the box). It was a great play, as Mark Giordano kept adjusting Hamilton’s position on the point before the puck dropped, and then Monahan won the draw cleanly and fed it to Hamilton for the knuckleball goal. Mike Santorelli responded back on the rush, as Deryk Engelland got caught up ice and Josh Jooris looked to be unintentionally screening Hiller while going back to cover the rush. It was a nice shot by Santorelli, though, and it made it 2-2. Jiri Hudler scored to put the Flames back on top a few minutes later, as his intended goal-mouth pass to Sean Monahan instead beat Andersen for a 3-2 advantage. Shots were 14-11 Anaheim and attempts were 24-19 for the Ducks.
The visitors began to pull away in the second frame, primarily on the backs of power-play markers. With Johnny Gaudreau in the box for a tripping call (which negated a Flames power-play), Ryan Getzlaf scored off a really nice individual effort – kicking the puck up to his stick and beating Hiller to make it 3-3. With Jakub Nakladal in the box, Sami Vatanen scored off a scrambley play where everyone wearing red seemed to lose track of the puck to make it 4-3 for the visitors. That goal spelled the end of the night for Hiller, who was replaced by Joni Ortio. Ortio seemed fine but wasn’t spectacular or anything, but the team around him seemed to lack their bearings for awhile in the second. After a sequence of a couple minutes where the Flames (a) couldn’t clear their own end and (b) couldn’t get the puck deep in the offensive end, Rickard Rakell came in and beat Ortio with a wrister off the rush. But just as it seemed that the Flames would go quietly into the intermission, Andersen made an initial save on a Monahan shot but lost track of the rebound, allowing Hudler to score his second with seven seconds left in the second. Shots were 12-8 for the Flames, while attempts were even at 17-17.
You might have thought that the hometown club may’ve come out of the gates quickly after scoring a late goal in the second. You’d be wrong. Mike Santorelli scored right away, crashing the net for a Joni Ortio rebound to double Anaheim’s lead 51 seconds in. The Flames had a few chances the rest of the way, but never really got back into it, with Anaheim content to keep them to the outside and poke-check away many stretch passes. Shots were 13-5 for the locals and attempts were 20-9, but it was too little, too late.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The Flames got four goals at home, which – to steal a phrase from head coach Bob Hartley – should be enough to win a game. Unfortunately, the team’s penalty killing woes continued and helped to negate three separate (1-0, 2-1 and 3-2) early leads. The Ducks kept getting goals, got some momentum and then just kept things roll along.
Once the Ducks got their legs under their and got their feet moving, the Flames had a ton of trouble handling their big forwards. If Anaheim wanted a scoring chance, they got one, and that’s something the Flames just couldn’t find a counter for.
Let’s go with Dougie Hamilton, who played with a bunch of different partners (primarily a mix of Giordano, Engelland and Nakladal) and looked really good throughout the game.
The top line did a great job generating chances in the first half of the game, but as the Ducks bore down on them, they couldn’t adjust and they weren’t really a factor late in the game.
SUM IT UP
They are who we thought they were.
The Ducks? They’re a team in a playoff spot, playing a game where they were able to lock down two points by not giving the Flames a ton of time, space or respect.
The Flames? They’re eight points back from a playoff spot and four points ahead of last-place Toronto. That probably tells you everything you really need to know.
The Flames are back in action on Wednesday evening when they face off against the visiting Minnesota Wild.