The Calgary Flames were fortunate to have a two-goal lead after the first two periods of tonight’s game with Ottawa. They led 4-2 off a few fortunate chances by Johnny Gaudreau. Unfortunately, they played a tremendously sloppy third period of hockey and were victimized for a natural hat-trick from Mika Zibanejad and four unanswered goals to drop tonight’s game by a 6-4 score.
It was the best and worst of the 2015-16 season. Johnny Gaudreau did some cool stuff, but the team was an absolute mess in their own end and they paid for it.
The entire game had a weird energy, as if the Jiri Hudler trade filled the building with goofy gas. Neither team was particularly crisp or impressive all evening, but sometimes the sloppiness led to entertaining hockey.
In the opening frame, the Flames were quite good – particularly at 5-on-5. Oddly, they opened the scoring on the power-play on an interesting passing play. Joni Ortio rushed out to collect an errant pass, chipping the puck up to Mikael Backlund. Backlund strode into the zone, passed to Sam Bennett, who passed it to Joe Colborne in the slot for a shot that squeaked through Craig Anderson for a 1-0 lead. A little while later, Sean Monahan made it 2-0 with a nice span-and-shoot chance from the face-off circle that beat Anderson under the arm. But the Senators responded back on the power-play. With Michael Frolik off for high-sticking, Zach Smith tipped in an Erik Karlsson point shot to make it 2-1. Shots were 12-4 Flames, while attempts were 14-10 for the Flames.
The Senators pressed hard in the second, and the Flames probably spent roughly two-thirds of the period in their own end. However, Johnny Gaudreau made it 3-1, turning on the jets and beating Karlsson on a rush and beating Anderson top-corner. But the Senators pulled closer, as Deryk Engelland crunched a player along the boards but couldn’t grab the puck, and Curtis Lazar collected it and fed Nick Paul in the slot for a tap-in to make it 3-2. But the Flames came through with a big, late-period goal; with 22 seconds left, Monahan and Gaudreau went in on a rush and Gaudreau beat Anderson through some traffic to make it 4-2 after two. Shots were 13-13, but attempts were 28-19 for the Senators.
There were three goal reviews in the first half of the third period. All were for potential Ottawa goals. Unfortunately for the Flames, two of them counted. The Senators hit a cross-bar five seconds into the period, but it didn’t count. Unfortunately, Mika Zibanejad scored three goals in 2:38 to completely topple the Flames. First, he was left alone due to a defensive lapse by the home side, and went top-cheddar on Ortio with a nice snipe.
That’s an amazing shot pic.twitter.com/9xCdoOXCO3
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) February 28, 2016
It was such a nice goal that they had to call Toronto for them to take a peek. Zibanejad scored again off a wonky play; the initial shot bonked off of Alex Chiasson as Bobby Ryan was cutting across the crease. Ortio followed Ryan, then realized that the puck bounced from Chiasson right to Zibanejad, who potted it in to make it 4-4. And the lead completely evaporated short thereafter, as Michael Stone’s initial opportunity after a Flames give-away at their own blueline was stopped, but the rebound went right to a sliding Zibanejad for the 5-4 lead. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored on an empty net with a minute left to make it 6-4. Shots were 13-9 Calgary and attempts were 25-15, but the Senators got too many juicy turnovers for that to matter.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
I’ll let Flames captain Mark Giordano summarize it:
“Even in the second, we were really guilty of turning over the puck a lot and that’s as bad as it gets in the third. We gave that team the game that we should’ve easily won in the third.”
Just some awful, awful defensive play. They were beaten to all kinds of loose pucks in the second but somehow held it together, and then added unforced turnovers to their repertoire in the third period.
Johnny Gaudreau had two big goals for his team and three points overall. Let’s give it to him, but also give a stick-tap to T.J. Brodie and his three assists.
I’ll give Bob Hartley credit. He had the opportunity to let his team off the hook and blame the loss on the video review result on the game-tying goal. He didn’t.
“Tonight there was one call that we thought there was interference, but at the end of the day we just don’t deserve to win. That goal was a huge goal, but I’m not going to blame the referees on the loss for one play when we basically gave momentum in the second and third period.”
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
The Flames are five points out of last place overall and 12 points out of the last wild-card spot.
The Flames (26-31-4) hop on a plane tomorrow to head for Philadelphia for the trade deadline on Monday afternoon and then a clash with the Flyers on Monday evening.