For the third straight game, the Calgary Flames were the better team.
For the third straight game, the Flames got some points out of it.
The locals were full marks once again, getting out to an early lead against a really good Nashville Predators club and holding on for a 3-2 overtime victory on home ice. The revelry was soured somewhat by the in-game departures of T.J. Brodie and Sam Bennett with upper-body injuries.
The Flames improve to 28-34-5 on the season.
After a bit of a sluggish start by both teams, the Flames were superb in the opening period. After a sleepy opening five minutes, they began skating and making crisper passes and then all heck broke loose. On a lengthy offensive zone sojourn, the Flames actually heard the buzzer and the clock was rewound by about 30 seconds because Johnny Gaudreau scored a goal that went off the back-bar and out so quickly, it took Toronto looking at the tape to notice it. While they were announcing that goal, Gaudreau skated around a falling Nashville defender and scored again to make it 2-0.
Breakin’ ankles and scorin’ goals pic.twitter.com/KZ66jdwhq6
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) March 10, 2016
The Flames played fairly well the rest of the way and didn’t give up too much. They led in shots 14-9 but trailed slightly in shot attempts 25-23.
Nobody scored in the second period, as Johnny Gaudreau became Johnny Passing rather than Johnny Shooting. The Flames led comfortably in shots 10-4 and attempts 21-14, and did a great job disrupting Nashville while dealing with some extended absences from T.J. Brodie and Sam Bennett during the frame.
The Predators finally got on the board mid-way through the third. After the Flames finally failed to efficiently clear the zone – something they’d been good at to that point – there was a pile-up of bodies in front of Joni Ortio and Mike Fisher set up Anthony Bitetto (sneaking in from the point) for his first NHL goal on the wide-open net. The Predators kept pushing and eventually tied it up with a little bit left in regulation, as Fisher beat Ortio on another net-front scramble to make it 2-2. Shots were 13-9 Nashville and shot attempts were 20-13 Nashville, because score effects. (Oh, and Nashville’s a good team and probably remarked after the second, “We’re down two goals to Calgary!?”
So went to overtime. And Gaudreau? Well, he got caught out on a long shift, but managed to collect the puck and set up Mikael Backlund for a one-timer for the 2-1 victory.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Well, they out-played the Predators for two-thirds of the game, and managed to score. They defended well on the penalty kill and were generally very defensively responsible at even-strength. They held on for dear life in the third period, but they played well enough to deserve a couple of points, and they managed to generate enough dangerous scoring chances to get those points.
Johnny Gaudreau had two goals and three points tonight, so he’s the natural answer. He was superb.
But hey, Joni Ortio was sharp throughout, and Jyrki Jokipakka played with a bunch of different people in a bunch of different situations and was rock-solid throughout. He may be the answer to the gap in the Flames top two defensive pairings.
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
The Flames crept up a bit in points, but Toronto won so it’s not like they lost much ground at all.
They’re six points up on last place, and 13 points behind Colorado for the last playoff spot. Their “tragic number” for elimination is any combination of 8.5 Flames losses or Colorado wins.
The Flames are back in action on Friday night as they host a Pacific Division rival in the Arizona Coyotes.