The Calgary Flames had their first extended days of practice of the season over the past few days. They focused on their dreadful special teams, with the goal of stopping the bleeding – the coaching staff has regularly spoken of good games undone by one crucial kill or power play gone bad.
Well, it happened once more. Facing a Dallas Stars club that gave up eight goals on Tuesday in Winnipeg, the Flames managed just a pair – both at even strength – and lost a razor-thin 4-2 game that was swung on a power play marker from the other team.
The Flames were pretty decent early, making passes and skating well. They led in shots 8-1 by midway through the period. Then things got sloppy and bad. After a carry-in by Dallas Dougie Hamilton and Sam Bennett bonked into each other, allowing Radek Faksa some time to pass the puck to Lauri Korpikoski for a one-timer (and a 1-0 lead). A few minutes later, some confusion in the Flames zone and some nice Dallas passing led to another goal, as Jamie Benn scored to make it 2-0. Shots were 10-10.
I hate to get all “narrative” on y’all, but the second period was skewed heavily towards the Flames. Right after the period began, Tyler Seguin got crunched with a clean hit by a forechecking Micheal Ferland in the Dallas zone. He then engaged in fisticuffs with Antoine Roussel. The Flames kept pressing after that, and Brett Kulak’s point shot was stopped by Kari Lehtonen…but it trickled through his pads and Johnny Gaudreau tucked it into the net to make it 2-1. The game was tied on Gaudreau’s very next shift; a turnover by Dallas led to a very nice low point shot by Kulak (more of a slap-pass to the slot, really) that Gaudreau redirected to tie the game at 2-apiece. The Flames kept pressing but couldn’t bury anything for the remainder of the period. Shots were 10-4 Calgary, including 2-0 over four minutes of Dallas power play time.
The Flames weren’t quite as good in the third as they were in the second, and it hurt them. The Stars pressed well and hit a goal post and a crossbar in consecutive rushes. Finally, Dallas broke through, though it was on a weird sequence. With Alex Chiasson in the box for his second minor of the game, Dallas entered the zone on a sequence that was nearly offside. Then they made a pass to the point which looked to some eyes to be offside as well. For whatever reason – perhaps they thought the play(s) were offside – the Flames stood around a bit in confusion, allowing a few rapid-fire passes and the second goal of the game for Jamie Benn off a nifty pass from Tyler Seguin. The Flames pressed late but really couldn’t generate anything, as the Stars played a well-structured defensive third period. Roussel scored into an empty net to make it 4-2 and send the fans home unhappy. Shots were 11-8 for Calgary in the final frame.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
The Flames played well enough through 40 minutes to be tied. They gave up a power play goal in the third after two strong second period kills. They found themselves with a late third period man advantage and a golden chance to tie it, but their PP was nowhere near as crisp as it was in the first period.
The special teams were quite good when the game was young, but they utterly failed to be difference-makers (in a positive sense) when the game was up for grabs.
THE TURNING POINT
It’s obvious, but the third Dallas goal on their third power play of the game was a back-breaker. The Flames got caught confused and flat-footed and Dallas made them pay. They never seemed to be quite in the game from that point onward. (Which is a bit of a shame considering there was still 12:40 left in regulation at that point.)
It’s a tough one, but I’ll go with Kulak. He played 20:32 (fourth among defenders) and was consistently creating chances when he was on the ice. He ended the game with two primary assists and his play gave the Flames a chance.
Not to diminish Gaudreau’s two-goal performance, but Kulak was the catalyst tonight.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)
THIS AND THAT
Ferland hit Seguin in the early second, then immediately after fought Roussel.
Antoine Roussel vs Micheal Ferland from Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames Nov 10, 2016 https://t.co/sYU8mvMRjV
— hockeyfights (@hockeyfights) November 11, 2016
Roussel had the weirdest Gordie Howe Hat Trick I’ve ever seen: fight, empty-net goal, secondary assist.
Flames coach Glen Gulutzan noted post-game that he dropped Jokipakka & Dougie Hamilton to a third pairing role for the second and third period, in part to optimize match-ups between the Engelland/Kulak pairing and the Seguin and Benn lines.
Ferland got thumped with a big hit from Stephen Johns in the third period. He left the ice with the trainer and didn’t play another shift.
“We had two power plays, one at the end. We needed to generate a little bit more. I thought the first one was dangerous, generated some shots, chances, we are at the net. We need that kill. The first two kills were very good, very solid, and then we made three mistakes on the one. You make two, it’s probably going to end up in your net. You make three, it’s gonna end up in your net.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on his team’s special teams performance on the evening.
“We’re finding ways to lose. There’s certain things that we’re doing well, but we’re finding ways to lose. We need somebody now to step up and find a way to win and stop playing the victim. That’s really what we need. We need to find that from within our locker room. To count yourself out or in or anything at this juncture, we just need somebody to step up and take this thing, find ways to win games.” – Gulutzan on the team’s slow start to the season.
The Flames are back in action on Saturday night, on Hockey Night In Canada, against the powerhouse New York Rangers.