It took them four tries, but the Calgary Flames have finally gotten into the win column. Don’t let that statement fool you, though: it wasn’t easy. It took the Flames 62 and a half minutes and some nice individual efforts from the fourth line (and Matthew Tkachuk) to get them a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.
It was not pretty. It was a game that lacked beauty and flow for much of its duration. But for the Flames, it was a direly needed two points.
The hometown squad looked really nice for the first three or four minutes of this game. They were skating. They were making nice passes. They were holding onto the puck and entering the offensive zone with purpose. Then they got a power play and the wheels fell off for a bit. After bumbling around with the puck on a few zone entry attempts, the Sabres got back to even strength and made the Flames look like a junior team for awhile. On a shift that saw three different failed zone exits, Buffalo scored off a Tyler Ennis shot that was tipped by Zemgus Girgensens (the Pride of Latvia) to make it 1-0.
The Flames gradually figured it out, though, and after a couple nice shifts of pressure, Brett Kulak’s point shot led to the first goal. It was a weird sequence, though, with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik scrambling around the goal-mouth for the rebound. The refs blew the play down, then realized they shouldn’t have and let the goal stand. Shots were 14-6 for the hosts.
The Flames had some pep early in the second, aside from burning off the first couple minutes of the period without gaining entry into the Buffalo zone. But a few nice shifts – including a loud goal-post by Matthew Tkachuk – eventually got Calgary a two-minute 5-on-3. But sadly, they couldn’t generate very much and Mark Giordano took a penalty (during a 5-on-3) as the Flames failed on a zone entry. That penalty didn’t result in anything, but on a subsequent Buffalo PP a point shot rebounded into the net off of Dougie Hamilton to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead. Shots were 9-4 for Calgary.
The Flames pulled even early in the third. Micheal Ferland finally got his efforts rewarded with a goal, jumping on a loose puck off a scramblely play and chipping it past Robin Lehner to make it 2-2. However, Marcus Foligno made a nice individual effort to make it 3-2: he beat out both Deryk Engelland and Kulak for a loose puck and beat Johnson with a really nice wrister. But that lead did not last long, as Matthew Tkachuk raced into the Buffalo zone and beat Lehner with a wrister of his own to tie the game – it was his first-ever NHL goal. Shots were 9-6 Buffalo.
Regulation solved nothing! Off to overtime they went, and after a pretty entertaining few minutes – punctuated by a big save by Johnson at one end and a few minutes of puck possession by the Flames at the other – Johnny Gaudreau found Sean Monahan for the game-winner. Shots were 5-2 for Calgary in OT.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Well, they were able to overcome their woeful first 40 minutes. They dominated puck possession but didn’t make a lot of good decisions with the puck. However, they were able to score clutch goals in the third period to stay in the game, and they managed to pull a rabbit out of their hat in overtime. They were just good enough to win at the right time to capture two points.
But man, their power play is struggling. They absolutely cannot enter the zone with any speed or coordination. This is something that needs to be fixed post-haste.
THE TURNING POINT
There was a span in the third period that tilted the game. First, Tkachuk scored off the rush. Then, Tkachuk drew a crowd (and a penalty) with a clean hit on the boards in the Flames zone. That gave the Flames a power play which was soon negated and eventually turned into a penalty-killing span that swung the game towards the Flames (as they managed to keep the game tied).
Gaudreau and Monahan may have combined for the winning goal, but the Flames were in a position to win because Tkachuk caused such a ruckus on two consecutive shifts.
As much as it’s tempting to go for Tkachuk, Matt Stajan was rock-solid for the Flames all night. For the first two periods, the only real sign of life for the Flames was the fourth line of Stajan, Ferland and Alex Chiasson.
As usual, honourable mention to Backlund and Frolik.
THIS AND THAT
At 18 years, 312 days old, Matthew Tkachuk is the 2nd youngest player in #Flames history to score a goal (Dan Quinn: 18 yrs, 139 d in 1983)
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) October 19, 2016
Chad Johnson with Flames first win. CPS Black Hat! Welcome home! pic.twitter.com/ugL1gZ5JXh
— Roger Millions (@RogMillions) October 19, 2016
Troy Brouwer was on the ice for all three Sabres goals.
“I thought once again five on five we played well. Specialty teams, we need to keep working on the power play and the penalty kill to get them where we need them.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan assesses the win.
The Flames (1-2-1) practice tomorrow as they prepare to get back into action on Thursday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.