The Calgary Flames entered tonight’s game at .500, hoping to get a key two points against the Washington Capitals before heading out on the road for a big four game trip. However, a fairly standard recipe has emerged for the team’s losses: get down early, get out-scored by the other team’s special teams groups, and then have to play from behind for the majority of the game.
Despite a hefty third period push, the Flames skated to a 3-1 loss against Washington tonight.
The Capitals didn’t seem like a group that played last night early on. They had their legs moving and scored a nice heads up goal: with the Flames defense completely out of position, Jay Beagle set up an uncovered Brett Connolly with a one-timer in the slot to make it 1-0. Their lead was doubled on a Capitals power play: with Deryk Engelland in the box, a nice passing play ended with Alex Ovechkin’s one-timer from the left side of the ice getting tipped by Marcus Johansson to make it 2-0. On both goals, Brian Elliott had very little chance to stop the puck.
Calgary answered back before the period was over, though. An errant pass through the neutral zone was collected by a Washington defender at their blueline, but Matthew Tkachuk stole it from them and passed to Mikael Backlund for a really nice wrister that beat Braden Holtby to make it 2-1. Tkachuk made some contact with a Capitals player before the goal and the Capitals argued there should’ve been a penalty, but the goal stood. Washington led in shots 12-8 in the first and generally carried play during the period.
Nobody scored in the second period. Both teams had power plays. The Capitals had a few decent chances that Elliott deftly turned aside. The Flames really struggled to get organized and, as happened in the first period, got their best chances at even strength with either the Stajan line or the Backlund line on the ice. Shots were 9-6 Washington.
The Flames found their legs in the third period and generated a bunch of chances off the rush. The coaching staff also made some tweaks here and there, even throwing out Johnny Gaudreau for a whirl with the Backlund/Michael Frolik pairing. Unfortunately, the Flames just couldn’t generate enough solid chances in the third to get a second puck past Holtby. Johansson added an empty netter to make it 3-1. Shots were 8-8 in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
They got down early off a flat start and allowed two quick goals off some lost battles, bad positioning and shoddy special teams. They had a ton of chances to tie the game, but ultimately they couldn’t generate much of anything on their special teams opportunities and that was that.
It’s a shame, because it wasted a really good performance by the Backlund/Frolik/Tkachuk line against Ovechkin’s tandem.
THE TURNING POINT
The Flames were pretty decent in the second periods, albeit in fits and starts. They generated two power plays in the second half of the period: they resulted in one shot and zero goals. That was basically it, in terms of the game.
Backlund had the Flames only goal and performed very well in a really tough assignment against Alex Ovechkin’s line. He, Frolik and Tkachuk gave one of the NHL’s most dangerous players very little, and also managed to generate a few nice chances of their own.
Elliott was also really sharp.
THIS AND THAT
As usual, the Flames in-game production staff put together a cool Halloween intro for the game.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) October 31, 2016
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) October 31, 2016
“I was disappointed with our execution. Just throwing each other grenades, it seemed like. We didn’t generate, didn’t get any momentum from those.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s two power play opportunities.
“I think in-zone, once we get in zone we get some looks. It’s getting into the zone, I think, we’re having some issues. That’s where it starts. We gotta find a way to get in there, grind that puck out, get it around and get some shots to the net. But you gotta give.. tonight, they were good on the entries. We’ve got to find a way to get some puck possession, though.” – Flames captain Mark Giordano on his team’s power play struggles.
“I thought he played good. Young guy, you can see it’s a heavy game for him. I thought he played hard and got to the areas, but it’s not an easy game. That’s a really good hockey club.” – Gulutzan on Matthew Tkachuk’s play against Washington after being benched for much of the third period against Ottawa.
“All we tried to do there in the third was get Johnny some more ice. It was at the expense of Boums and Tkachuk and a couple other guys. It’s just to get him out there a little bit more. My experience is when guys are feeling a bit frustrated is to keep putting them on the ice, especially your top players, and see if they can get different looks with different guys. And I thought Backs and Fro had some nice energy, that line they created some zone time and chances, so you never know if you can get a little spark.” – Gulutzan on playing Gaudreau with Backlund and Frolik in the third.
The Stockton Heat got out to a 3-1 lead midway through their game in Tucson against the Roadrunners. But they couldn’t hold on and ended up losing 4-3 to spoil David Rittich’s first start of the season. Hunter Shinkaruk, Emile Poirier and Linden Vey scored for the Heat.
The Flames are back on the road, heading to Chicago for a Tuesday night game that kicks off a rather odd road trip that then takes them through the three California cities (San Jose, Los Angeles & Anaheim). They’re back at home next Thursday (November 10) when they host the Dallas Stars.