The penalty kill has been a sore spot for the Calgary Flames this season, to put it mildly. To be more blunt, the Flames’ inability to kill a ton of penalties (and to give up power-play goals at the wrong time of tight games) has cost the Flames wins and points. So it’s probably been nice lately to see the man-down unit shut down the opposing teams and actually score goals.
It happened again tonight. Two goals in 30 seconds by the penalty kill powered the Flames to a point. They lost 4-3 to the Colorado Avalanche in the shootout at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The opening frame wasn’t terribly exciting, with the teams combining for a single shot on goal in the first seven minutes or so. It picked up in the second half of the period, and Matt Stajan opened the scoring with a nice effort pivoting around a defender on a zone entry, a nice pass to Jyrki Jokipakka and then a nice skate deflection off Jokipakka’s point shot through traffic. (It held up on a goal review, because Stajan didn’t make a kicking motion but merely angled his skate. Veteran move.) The lead didn’t last the period, though: the Flames lost track of the attackers and the puck after defending the initial rush well and so Erik Johnson snuck in from the point and one-timed a pass past a sprawling Joni Ortio to make it 1-1. Shots were 9-8 Colorado in the opening period, but shot attempts were 20-16 for the Flames.
The second period was much, much more entertaining. It helps that the crowd got into it after the Flames scored two short-handed goals in 30 seconds. First, Josh Jooris created a neutral zone turnover after an initial Michael Frolik/Mikael Backlund odd-man rush was defended. Jooris carried the puck it, waited out the defenders and fed the puck to Mark Giordano in the slot for a wrister that made it 2-1. On the next shift, Lance Bouma collected the puck off an errant pass from Freddie Hamilton, then fed Hamilton for a one-timer that made it 3-1. (And was Hamilton’s first goal in 365 days.) The Avalanche answered back before the period ended, though, as Joe Colborne over-skated a puck while trying to skate it out of the defensive zone, leading to a few passes and a shot from Tyson Barrie that deflected off Giordano and past Ortio to make it 3-2. Shots were 13-5 Flames and attempts were 22-8 for the Flames. (The NHL’s worst possession team, the Avalanche, lived very much down to their reputation.)
It looked like the Flames might coast to another win in the third period, but the Avalanche scored on a defensive fire-drill in the Flames end mid-way through the third. There were a flurry of chances, including a goal-post, but with Ortio down after an initial save, Carl Soderberg scored off the rebound to make it 3-3. Neither team managed to score from there, so we went to overtime. Shots in the third were 12-11 Colorado, but shot attempts were 22-22.
Overtime came, and overtime went! The Flames had a couple nice chances, but Ortio got called for tripping Jarome Iginla. But T.J. Brodie made all kinds of nice clearing attempts on the kill, so they managed to hold on until the shootout. Shots were 2-1 Colorado and attempts were 4-4 in extra time. Mikkel Boedker scored the only goal in the shootout for either team, and so the Flames dropped this one in extra time.
WHY THE FLAMES GOT A POINT
Let’s be honest, the Flames played well enough to win tonight. They scored three goals, including two short-handed markers. But they couldn’t generate enough at even-strength (or on the power-play), and their defensive zone coverage was iffy at the wrong times in this one. So in another way, they played well enough to win but also juuuust bad enough for them to lose.
Notable: Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan were held pointless tonight, and each guy was minus-1 on the evening.
Y’know, Josh Jooris was really effective tonight. He was good on the fore-check and on the penalty kill, and his line with Brandon Bollig and Matt Stajan was quite effective.
Stick-tap to T.J. Brodie, who made his return to the line-up by playing 29 minutes and being a beast on that overtime penalty kill.
The fastest two short-handed goals in Flames history? They happened in the last minute of an 8-8 tie against the Quebec Nordiques in October 1989
(That game summary courtesy our pals at the Hockey Summary Project.)
THE RACE TO THE BOTTOM
It was a big loss for the Flames (and a big win for the Avalanche, who have a bit of breathing room as Minnesota tries to chase them down). Calgary is now seven points back of last-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. And they’re 12 points back of Colorado. The “tragic number” for the Flames is now 5.5 – any combination of 5.5 Flames losses or Colorado wins eliminates them mathematically from playoff contention.
The Flames hit the road for a three-game jaunt that takes them first to Montreal on Sunday evening. It’s the beginning of a stretch that sees the NHL’s worst road team play six of their next seven games away from the friendly confines of the Saddledome.