Post-Game: Flames Extingush Penguins

Today’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Pittsburgh Penguins had all the excuses for the Flames to lose built into it. It was a road game, an afternoon game, the last game of a long road trip, and the team was facing the stacked Penguins squad that was desperate for points in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

But after a shaky first period, the Flames were full marks as they skated away and headed home with a well-earned 4-2 victory over the Penguins at Consol Energy Center this afternoon.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was odd, in that both teams had weird early goals and then seemed to fall into a staring contest of sorts. Patrik Hornqvist got credit for a goal that went off the back-boards, off Ortio’s pad, off Monahan’s stick, and in off Ortio’s back foot…on the game’s first shot. Joe Colborne replied shortly thereafter, with a bang-bang play from Sam Bennett that went in off his skate. No distinct kicking motion, though, so it counted to tie the game up. Shots were 8-6 for the Flames, but Pittsburgh had a slim 18-16 shot attempt lead.

Astonishingly, the Flames pulled away in the second. Five minutes in, Sidney Crosby was alone out in front and tipped a Hornqvist slap-pass past Ortio to give Pittsburgh the lead. However, the Flames responded back quickly. On a nice rush play from Josh Jooris and Mikael Backlund, Mark Giordano pinched in and beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a nice individual effort to make it 2-1. And while the Flames failed to cash in on an extended four-minute power-play on the high-sticking penalty that knocked Jakub Nakladal from the game, Backlund scored after that penalty expired; Dougie Hamilton’s hard pass to the slot was deflected off Backlund’s stick in a nice set play to give Calgary a slim 3-2 lead. Shots were 14-8 for the Flames and attempts were 22-14 for the visitors as well.

Pittsburgh suddenly realized that they were down a goal to the NHL’s 29th-best team after 40 minutes, and they came out skating in the third. They had a ton of puck possession and offensive zone time, but the Flames defended well and kept them largely to the outside. In fact, the Flames had the period’s only goal, as Lance Bouma scored off his own rebound after Fleury couldn’t gobble up a loose puck. The Penguins pulled their netminder for the better part of the last four minutes, but to no avail. Shots were 17-8 for the Penguins and attempts were 33-11 for the home side, but they couldn’t generate enough dangerous chances to get back into the game.

THE NUMBERS

(All Situations) CorsiFor% OZStart%
Nakladal 50% 100%
Bennett 50% 80%
Colborne 48.39% 76.92%
Bouma 42.31% 70%
Hamilton 46.51% 66.67%
Jokipakka 33.33% 42.86%
Gaudreau 32.35% 42.11%
Brodie 38.3% 42.11%
Ferland 50% 37.5%
Backlund 55.88% 37.5%
Monahan 30.77% 34.78%
Hathaway 47.83% 33.33%
Giordano 37.25% 31.58%
Frolik 21.88% 27.78%
Engelland 45.83% 25%
Stajan 33.33% 0%
Jooris 41.18% 0%
Bollig 43.75% 0%

WHY THE FLAMES WON

Ultimately, they triumphed because they didn’t give the Penguins a lot of respect. They were hitting. They were fore-checking. They were crashing the net. And when they were stuck in their own end, they weren’t running around or admiring any nice passes; instead, they kept their sticks active and tried their best to contain and disrupt the Penguins attackers.

To be blunt? This is the type of “we don’t give a crap” Flames team that we had hoped to see post-trade deadline. If they come out like this, they’ll give most teams some headaches.

RED WARRIOR

Mikael Backlund! He was north of 50% in Corsi For, he won more than half of his face-offs, he had the game-winning goal and an assist, and he was tied for the team lead with four shots on net.

And stick-taps to Joni Ortio, who got his first win since January 19, 2015 with a 29-save performance, and Garnet Hathaway, who was credited with six hits and was active on the fore-check all game.

THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM

With the victory, the Flames (at least temporarily) leap from 29th overall to 27th, surpassing Edmonton and Winnipeg. Minnesota beat Buffalo earlier today, so Calgary’s “tragic number” to be eliminated from post-season contention is now any combination of 10 Flames losses or Minnesota wins.

UP NEXT

The Flames return home and are back in action on Monday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.

  • RKD

    Backs was a warriors, he’s been red hot of late. Nice to see the Flames players show some pride and stop this gross losing streak. So glad Hiller didn’t start.

  • beloch

    The Flames played a solid defensive game and kept the Penguins on the periphery even while the Penguins were racking up possession time. Ortio kept his cool through some goals he didn’t have much of a chance on and delivered a quality start. The ref’s did a decent job. The only thing not to like was that terrible high-stick on Nakladal. I really hope he’s okay.

  • slapshot444

    This one should be called Boyz to Men. The Flames played like studs, as much as the Pens looked all powerful the Flames had lots of close misses that could have easily put this game away before they in fact did. Ortio played like he deserves every start from here till the end.
    Oh … and the refs suddenly forgot about punishing the Flames, first fair game since the suspension. Maybe they got nervous when Kelly Rudi called them out last game. I know a draft pick is important but sorry, I’d rather watch my team play like this than turn into……….well you know……….our northern friends.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Don’t loose heart the Flames can’t win them all. I know, I know we need everyone one these. The Leafs are pulling out all the stops and its disgusting what they are getting a way with to become the top team this year. The Oilers are coiling there way to the top with games behind them. Let’s face it they are good, and it’s no fluke they won 6 of the last 10. They’re just that formidable, that businesslike as an organization, beating them out will be tough. Then of course, let’s not forget Coilers East aka Buffalo. Do you remember the 2 goalie trades which put them over the top last year. If not for the unbeatable Coilers they were a sure bet. Regardless, there is time left for the Flames to end up a top 3 seed, and with our stable of goaltenders, I like our chances.

  • 99 NOW 97

    Damn you Calgary ! Now we are that much closer to getting #1 OVERALL
    again. Sigh… Wanna Trade ? Gaudreau for the 1st if we got it ? We Need defence i understand. But how many of you seriously would trade Johnny for the #1 pick , of course you would have to sweeten it but would you do it. Just curious.

    Something to think about isn’t it ? Not bashing Calgary here just a very interesting scenario for you. You know what you have in JG and he is awesome , i admit it. But is Auston the Man ?

  • Bob's Hockey Stick

    Good to hear news on Nak is better then worst case scenario material. Good to see a win and Ortio played pretty well. Let’s see more Ortio , less Hiller.

  • xploD

    Eh. As wrong as it is to cheer for losing. I don’t want to win anymore games. Except Edmonton and Vancouver. Please lose every single other game?

    Other than that, I’d like Ortio to show he can contend for #1 or backup and not be another bust.

    I hope Nak is back.

    I hope we get a top 3 pick.

    • Rockmorton65

      Nope. All 14 non playoff teams have a shot in each of the lotteries. (one for first overall, one for second overall and one for third). The odds of winning just get worse the higher they finish.

      • Hubcap1

        Ya I don’t think very many people actually get this yet, even the paid media who too often contribute to the dumbing down of fan knowledge.

        I hate too rant but the sports media business is starting to bug me a bit. Take an interview with Drew Doughty on SN in which he mentions TSN and gets scolded by Dregger, If that was me in Doughty’s situation I’d have told him on air that I’ll bring up another network if I dam well please. What is Rogers afraid of they own national rights for years to come. Just very petty if you ask me.

      • freethe flames

        I guess my point is that the Flames are likely to finish with around 70 points; looking at the rest of the standings what is the likelyhood that the Leafs 52 points(none), Oilers 57, Jets 59, Sabres 61, Blue Jackets. Coyotes, and Canucks all at 62 exceed the 70 point mark. The Flames have games against most of them and while we all hate to lose to the Oilers and Canucks those could be big reverse standing games.

        So the worse that the last place team can draft is 4th, 2nd worse is 5th and 3rd worse is 6th, Teams % of chance of winning the draft lottery goes down significantly the higher up the standings they go.

        When is the date that they hold the lottery? Any of the top 4 forwards would help our teams top end depth where we still need at least 2 more high end guys to fill out our top 6.

    • supra steve

      Ortio won’t play every game. Pretty common knowledge that “new Hiller” (Backstrom) has been promised a start (perhaps more), and “old” Hiller will likely get more as well. Poulin is also a possibility I suppose.

  • everton fc

    Colborne catches a lot of flack here, by many. Myself included. But he could get 15 goals and 35 points this season. Not bad at all. For Colborne.

    Good to see David Jones get a goal w/the Wild. Even if it was a deflection (as was Colborne’s, I know!).

  • cgyokgn

    Well, in the interest of staying with the other non-playoff teams, not a bad night: although Toronto lost, Winnipeg won, the Sabres got a point, the Coyotes won and the Canucks won.

    Interesting that Sven B got first star… it sticks in my craw that he had to go to another team to find success. I guess you can’t win them all.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Perhaps Saturday’s game marks the start of Calgary’s late season surge. This final sprint won’t bring them into the playoffs, only further away from a top 5 draft pick.

    While accumulating late-season wins is what it is, what I really hate about it is how it will be interpreted by many as proof positive that the Flames have turned the corner and will be poised and primed to be a serious playoff threat next season.

    There is a reason Calgary has never drafted first overall despite having some pretty awful teams. They are good enough not to be the worst but bad enough not to make the playoffs.

    The Flames will be drafting in June closer to 10th than 1st thanks to a lot of wins down the home stretch. Enjoy the wins, but ignore what tea leaves portend about these wins. The Flames are a very bad hockey team and the rebuild looks like it is going to take longer than 5 years.