Post-Game: Canucks roasting on an open fire

The Calgary Flames came into the final game before the Christmas break with a problem: losers of three of their last four games, their play had been a tad inconsistent – to the point where some may have questioned whether they’ve lapsed into their October doldrums once more.

A 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks – themselves playing in the second game in as many nights and playing poorly over that stretch – won’t answer all of the questions about this team. But they were presented with a tired team, out-played (and out-shot and out-chanced) them in every period and every facet of the game, and captured two points. It was an encouraging 60 minutes of hockey to send all involved into the holiday break in the schedule.

THE RUNDOWN

The Flames were excellent in the first period and likely would’ve had a multi-goal lead after 20 minutes if not for a few bad bounces and some occasionally heroic goaltending from Canucks tender Jacob Markstrom. However, the Flames were victims of a really bad bounce as a point shot from Nikita Tryamkin bounced off a Flames player, up and over Brian Elliott, and into the net to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. Shots were 16-5 for Calgary.

We’ve seen this story before: bad goal sinks the home side, and they’re deflated in the next period. On this occasion, not so much. After an early penalty to Luca Sbisa and a few decent chances by the first power play unit, Mikael Backlund set up Mark Giordano for a nice wrister that beat Markstrom to tie the game at 1-1.

With Backlund in the box serving a penalty of his own, the Flames continued their short-handed scoring. Michael Frolik collected a loose puck and launched it at Markstrom after skating into the Canucks end. Markstrom got most of the shot, but it trickled through and Giordano went to the net and poked it in to give Calgary the 2-1 lead.

Before the period was up, the Flames added an even-strength marker to give them some breathing room. And wouldn’t you know it, the de facto top line of Backlund, Tkachuk and Frolik made it happen. A Dougie Hamilton point shot was stopped, but the Canucks were so preoccupied with Tkachuk that Backlund scored on the rebound to make it 3-1.

Shots were 11-3 Flames in the middle period.

The Flames didn’t give into score effects in the third, defending rather well against a really tired Canucks squad. Tkachuk added an empty-netter to ice it at 4-1. Shots were 10-6 Flames in the final frame.

WHY THE FLAMES WON

The Flames were able to push the pace in all three periods and not fold like a cheap tent when Vancouver got a weird goal in the first period. The fragility that the club displayed throughout October may not be gone entirely, but it never showed itself in this one.

It also helps that Vancouver was tired and the Flames were smart enough to push the pace throughout this game.

THE TURNING POINT

Giordano’s short-handed goal gave the Flames the lead, but it also deflated the Vancouver bench and signaled the beginning of the end for their dreams of two points.

RED WARRIOR

Let’s give a joint award to the 3M Line, who combined for 12 shots, two goals and six points on the evening. They were the best line on a team that had a lot going for them tonight.

And a hearty stick-tap to Giordano, Hamilton and Brian Elliott, who was good when he needed to be.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentages are even strength. Game score is overall. Numbers courtesy Natural Stat Trick.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Ferland 77.8 42.9 0.725
Hamilton 65.6 10.0 2.300
Giordano 65.6 10.0 2.425
Hathaway 64.3 66.7 0.450
Brodie 60.9 40.0 0.850
Tkachuk 60.0 7.7 1.675
Stajan 58.3 16.7 0.745
Gaudreau 57.1 62.5 0.725
Wideman 56.5 40.0 0.200
Backlund 55.6 10.0 2.595
Monahan 55.0 71.4 0.175
Bennett 52.0 37.5 0.265
Frolik 51.7 7.7 1.750
Chiasson 47.4 60.0 -0.050
Versteeg 43.8 60.0 -0.175
Engelland 41.7 55.6 -0.250
Wotherspoon 37.5 55.6 -0.400
Brouwer 25.0 100 -0.250
Elliott 0.550

THIS AND THAT

QUOTEABLE

“He was fantastic. He had a hard assignment; he and Dougie played against the Sedin line and I thought they did a great job there. And both of his goals, one PP, one shorthanded, I thought he was a dominant player tonight.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on the two-goal performance by captain Mark Giordano.

UP NEXT

The Flames (18-16-2) are off entirely for three days for the holidays. They’re back in action on the 27th in Denver against the lowly Colorado Avalanche.