(Neville E. Guard / USA Today Sports)
The Calgary Flames rolled into San Jose this evening to tangle with the Sharks, last year’s Western Conference champions. The Sharks haven’t been great this season, though they’ve played rather solid.
The Flames still have their warts. They were out-shot. They gave the Sharks five power plays (and gave up a goal). They lost Kris Versteeg in the first period and had to shuffle their lines for the rest of the game. But they rolled with the punches and ended up winning 3-2, in regulation, against a divisional foe.
The difference-maker? An 18-year-old kid from St. Louis.
Neither team scored in the first period, but the Flames played fairly well. They did take three penalties and had to defend against three Sharks power plays, but the Flames were solid against a very flat Sharks PP. Aside from that – and Versteeg’s injury – there weren’t a ton of high-octane plays. Shots were 7-7.
The Flames were a bit sloppy and discombobulated in the second, as they were struggling to find some line stability in Versteeg’s absence. The results were a bit mixed and the Flames were on their heels for the first half of the period (or so). But they figured things out a bit late in the period and scored a couple of goals a couple minutes apart. Micheal Ferland made a goal happen entirely via a really nice back-pass into the slot. Skating around the back of San Jose’s net, Ferland kept moving but passed out front to Troy Brouwer for a one-timer that Martin Jones barely reacted to. That made it 1-0. A few minutes later, Deryk Engelland carried the puck into the Sharks zone and fed the puck to Matthew Tkachuk with a slick drop-pass. Tkachuk unleashed a wrister that beat Jones high to make it 2-0. Shots were 10-10 in the second.
The Sharks clawed back in the third. With Sam Bennett in the box for a late second period penalty, Brent Burns drove home a one-timer from the point (through traffic) to make it 2-1. The Sharks kept pressing and the Flames seemed content to try to white-knuckle it to the very end. Of course, that resulted in another goal mid-way through the period. Melker Karlsson drove the net and tipped Marc-Eduoard Vlasic’s point shot past Johnson to make it 2-2. It felt like a game bound for overtime, but once again Engelland and Tkachuk combined for some offense. Engelland drove the offensive zone, passed to Michael Frolik…who immediately chucked the puck towards Tkachuk, who deked out Jones and tucked the puck in for the 3-2 goal. That’s how it ended, as Matt Stajan and the fourth line kept the Sharks attackers at bay. Shots were 11-5 Sharks.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
The first line continues to be a mixed bag of missed opportunities, and the Flames were forced to roll with 11 forwards (and a top eight instead of a top nine) but they rolled with the challenges. The shutdown line (Backlund, Frolik & Tkachuk) and the third defensive pairing (Engelland & Kulak) generated two goals and surrendered zero.
Until the top six figures their crap out, at least the team’s depth players continue to make things happen.
THE TURNING POINT
Tkachuk’s second goal, which was a really nice play that put the Flames up.
Tkachuk’s 2nd goal pic.twitter.com/4ViOnD9V9O
— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 4, 2016
Let’s go with the kid: Tkachuk had a pair of goals, both of them pretty good. Stick-taps to Engelland (two assists), Frolik (two assists) and Ferland (really great pass to Brouwer).
Heck, Kulak was really good tonight, too.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)
THIS AND THAT
Glen Gulutzan on Tkachuk’s second goal: “A couple guys chirped the coaches and said we should have told him a while back.”
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) November 4, 2016
No update on Kris Versteeg’s lower body injury. Gulutzan says “we don’t know yet”. #Flames
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) November 4, 2016
The Flames (5-6-1) now head to Southern California for a tough assignment: back-to-back games on Saturday (against Los Angeles) and Sunday (against Anaheim).