(Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports)
For all their faults, the 2016-17 edition of the Calgary Flames have one thing figured out: they’re a pretty decent road team. They play a very low-key, low-event, borderline sleepy brand of ice hockey away from home. It’s simple and occasionally frustrating to watch (due to a lack of flashiness), but it works – in the sense that they’ve been successful in dragging skilled teams down into the muck. Add in the recent return of Johnny Gaudreau and suddenly the Flames seemingly can play their low-event hockey and get enough goals to win.
The Flames visited an injury-addled Dallas Stars club and did what they do on the road: they grinded out a low-event win by a 2-1 score. As a result, they’ve nudged themselves above the .500 mark for the first time since January 7, 2016.
It was a tight-checking first period, with the Flames defending well and Dallas responding likewise. As a result, there weren’t a heck of a lot of scoring chances. However, Dallas opened the scoring on a defensive lapse in the neutral zone by T.J. Brodie. Brodie got caught going after the puck-carrier, leaving Dennis Wideman alone on a 2-on-1: Curtis McKenzie beat Chad Johnson to make it 1-0. Shots were 9-7 Dallas.
The middle frame was characterized by some really bad defensive coverage by Dallas. Repeatedly. The Flames had roughly five full or partial breakaways, including one one by Matt Stajan on a penalty kill. Kari Lehtonen was equal parts good and lucky, managing to stop Johnny Gaudreau twice. However, after the aforementioned kill was finished, Alex Chiasson and Gaudreau got a 2-on-0 and Gaudreau buried it to tie the game.
Tic, tac, toe pic.twitter.com/9Qvcr75MgL
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) December 7, 2016
Mark Giordano scored again slightly afterwards to give the Flames a lead, but the goal was called back due to Chiasson being off-sides on the zone entry. Whoops.
Chiasson provides the screen on Giordano’s goal.
But first, went offside.
(cue the Price is Right losing sound) https://t.co/b5usMcCw6R
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) December 7, 2016
Shots were 10-8 Dallas.
The third period featured two teams that seemed destined to head to overtime – more tight-checking and tentative play than we saw even in the first period. But Matthew Tkachuk drew a holding penalty and Sean Monahan buried a Gaudreau feed on the power play (after a really nice zone entry by Kris Versteeg) to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
Seriously This is really good.
He pulls the Dallas defense out of formation and it gives Gaudreau time and Monahan to break in pic.twitter.com/cB55OLmek7
— AOL Keyword: Mike (@mikeFAIL) December 7, 2016
The Stars pressed late but the Flames defended well and came away with the win. Shots were 11-5 Dallas.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
Dallas is riddled with injuries, but they’re still a dangerous team. But they made a bunch of dumb decisions with the puck and, honestly, no team that plays as poorly defensively as they did in the second period deserves to win. They just seemed really unsure of themselves.
On the flip-side, the Flames are looking more and more confident with the puck, defended well, and got rock-solid goaltending once again. They were good enough at even strength to give themselves a chance on the road and then got a key special teams goal to tilt the game.
That’s how it’s supposed to work. It did tonight.
THE TURNING POINT
Monahan’s game-winner on the power play was the right goal at the right time by the right guy. Dallas pressed afterwards but never really seemed to generate enough to give the Flames any worries.
The Stars seemed utterly terrified by Gaudreau every single time he had the puck. He was superb tonight. He’s second on the team in goals despite missing basically 10 and a half games.
The 3M Line was their usual strong selves. Johnson made 29 saves as well.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall.)
THIS AND THAT
One reader crept in with the best phrasing that anybody could come up with regarding Gaudreau’s injury absence and return basically helping the team reset from their awful start:
— Taylor S (@tay0214) December 7, 2016
Versteeg looked to be in a lot of discomfort late in the third after taking a cross-check to the hip/ribs area – basically he took a stick to the part of the torso where the top of the pants end, which is quite painful. He missed a shift at the end of the game likely as a result of that contact.
The Flames (14-13-2) are off to Phoenix tonight riding a four game winning streak. They’ll play the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday before returning home for a weekend date with the Winnipeg Jets.