(That eyeblack. That hair. My goodness.)
The future in Calgary looks bright. Coming off of what appears to be a second straight excellent draft, a collection of hopeful faces – some old, many new – dressed for two games in Penticton.
And then there was a third. Having won one dominantly 4-1, and having lost one by the skin of their teeth in overtime, the baby Flames were looking to come away not just with a winning record, but on a good note – because next up is training camp, where players get cut and names really start to stand out.
It would go down to the wire again, but this time, it worked out.
There wasn’t anything in the way of goals in the first period, even as the Flames largely controlled the frame. Front and centre in this were Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Jankowski, who showed off the chemistry they’ve developed over the course of this tournament. The two generated a number of good chances, but Canucks netminder Thatcher Demko was there to stop them at every turn.
The trio of Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, and Eetu Tuulola were also pretty fun to watch, showing off some moves every now and then – Mangiapane especially – but it was Tkachuk and Jankowski who stole the show in the first. Them, and the tough fight Ryan Lomberg got into with Yan-Pavel Laplante, for some reason.
Lomberg very nearly opened the scoring at the end of the first, but he just hesitated on a cross-ice pass from Mangiapane, which gave Demko just enough time to get over and rob him.
It was in the second period where both teams found their offensive games. Michael Carcone was the first to break through, three minutes into the second off of a quick, clean zone entry. The puck was in and out before Nick Schneider even had a chance; Kenney Morrison was the last defender back, but it was all he could do to flop down to the ice and fail to obstruct Carcone’s shot.
But just 59 seconds later, Dennis Kravchenko tied it off of a Tuulola point shot.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) September 19, 2016
Lomberg finally got himself on the board for real shortly after, collecting the puck off of a failed passing attempt by the Canucks at their blueline. He went in all alone, and made it 2-1 for the Flames on his own.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) September 19, 2016
Tyler Parsons swapped in for Schneider at the halfway mark, and his teammates welcomed him immediately by going on the penalty kill, courtesy of Morrison standing up to Curtis Valk a little too well and knocking him down. But even though it was a Canucks powerplay, it was Jankowski who had the best chances – first on a shorthanded breakaway, and then off of the ensuing penalty shot thanks to interference – but Demko prevented him from increasing the Flames’ lead.
The Flames ended up on a powerplay soon after thanks to a Jordan Subban unsportsmanlike penalty. While the Flames had some pretty good puck movement on their man advantages – if, occasionally, a little too much perimeter play – the Canucks killed it off, and tied the game at two when Subban exited the box and jumped into the rush to capitalize.
And then it was 3-2 for Vancouver when Laplante, parked in front of the net, deflected a Marco Roy shot past Parsons and in.
The Flames wouldn’t go back to their dressing room down, though; not if Tuulola had anything to do with it. A Morrison point shot created a bit of chaos for Demko, and resulted in Tuulola picking up his own rebound and tying the game at three.
The Flames and Canucks traded plenty of chances through the third period, but neither could find the net. Calgary took four straight penalties to keep giving the Canucks chances (here’s number three, courtesy of none other than Tkachuk), occasionally spaced out with scoring chances of their own (Keegan Kanzig alone in the slot? Sure, why not! That was probably the highlight of the Flames’ many shorthanded attempts).
But the Canucks couldn’t capitalize with the man advantage, and the Flames couldn’t capitalize shorthanded, so it was off to overtime we went.
… In which the Flames took another penalty, this time courtesy of an Austin Carroll high-stick on Cole Cassels, because of course. But this just gave the Flames one last penalty kill to give them the chance to finally score – and they did, courtesy of another Lomberg breakaway that turned into the game winner.
Why the Flames won
The penalty kill.
The Flames countered the Canucks perfectly in the second period, able to stay toe-to-toe with them as far as scoring went. But it was like they were trying to burn themselves in the third period, only their penalty killers simply wouldn’t let them, and occasionally got more chances to score than the Canucks did on their own powerplays.
And then, of course, the fact that the actual game-winning goal came on the kill. The kill didn’t just save their asses; it won it.
There are a lot of choices here, any of the Flames’ goalscorers chief among them. Kravchenko showed a lot of smarts, had a huge hit, and had that great tip for the Flames; Lomberg was all over the ice, fighting, drawing penalties, killing penalties, showing tenacity by basically playing ice soccer at one point and keeping the puck moving up the ice even after he lost his stick; Tuulola was an impressive presence throughout the night both from the point and in front of the net in particular.
And in addition to those guys, there were more celebrated names who were simply all over the ice. Dube, Mangiapane, Tkachuk (although he needs to learn to calm down), Jankowski.
But come on – in addition to being everywhere, Lomberg got the game winner. It’s an easy choice; he just happened to cement it with the final play of the game.
Training camp. Thursday. We’re almost there, folks.