September hockey is weird. Players are trying to get their bearings and are desperate to not screw up too badly in a prospect camp. The best-case scenario is impressing enough to create momentum as they head towards main camp. The worst-case scenario is embarrassment or injury.
The Flames were all over the place in the second game of the 2016 Young Stars Classic. They played well. They played poorly. They got great goaltending. They got bad goaltending. They drew penalties with strong efforts. They took dumb penalties in a sloppy manner.
Playing an Oilers team that was missing Jesse Puljujarvi – and dressing largely the line-up that beat Winnipeg on Friday night – the Flames lost 4-3 in overtime.
This was a weird, weird game.
The Flames carried play for much of the first, out-shooting Edmonton 12-9. They opened the scoring off a nice sequence: Matthew Tkachuk began the cycle around to Mark Jankowski behind the net, who made a no-look backhand pass to Austin Carroll in the slot. Dylan Wells made a nice save on Carroll, but Tkachuk crashed the net and bonked in the loose puck to make it 1-0. That lead lasted awhile, as Wells was really strong the rest of the way. But the Flames didn’t go into the intermission with the lead, as Tyler Parsons and Ryan Culkin got their wires crossed and Joey Benik scored with the loose puck to tie things up.
The second period featured basically zero even-strength play. Tkachuk took a spearing double-minor. Austin Carroll then took a boarding penalty, giving Edmonton a 1:49 five-on-three. Then Culkin and Greg Chase took overlapping penalties, leading to some four-on-four, followed by a couple Flames power-plays as Ben Betker and Matt Benning took consecutive penalties on Tkachuk. Then Hunter Smith and Kayle Doetzel got into a fight. In the midst of all this, Mason McDonald came into the game and gave up a bad-angle short-side goal to Benik on the first shot he faced. Shots were 11-10 Edmonton, primarily due to all the power-plays. The Flames defender well, but were deflated by some soft goaltending.
After a few nice chances to tie the game by Eetu Tuulola, McDonald got beaten by Collin Shirley five-hole off the rush to make it 3-1. But the Flames roared back with a bunch of chances and then finally broke through. After failing to beat Wells up-close, Mikkel Aagaard beat him top-corner with a wrist shot from above the face-off circles to make it 3-2. And Brayden Burke scored on a three-on-one rush to tie the game late. Shots were 16-7 for the Flames in the third, reflecting their desperation.
Unfortunately, they got scored on early after a couple end-to-end rushes, as Oliver Kylington got caught on the rush and had the puck intercepted, sending Jaedon Descheneau in on a breakaway (and he beat McDonald). (Kylington got caught pinching a couple times during this game.)
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Edmonton’s goaltending was better than Calgary’s goaltending.
Parsons was good beyond his first period gaffe (that ended up in the back of the net). But Wells was way, way better and more consistent than McDonald was throughout this game and it made a big difference. If you thought Wells was the best player on the ice, you wouldn’t be wrong.
I’m gonna declare a tie, and give it to Eetu Tuulola and Ryan Lomberg. Neither scored tonight, but they were buzzing around the net constantly and stirring up chances.
The Flames practice tomorrow, and then are back in action on Monday afternoon (at 4pm MT) when they close out the tournament against the dastardly Vancouver Canucks.
After that? Main camp awaits on Thursday.