Facing the Anaheim Ducks is always a tall order. They’re a mature, veteran-laden team. They have made several lengthy runs into the playoffs and they just seem to know what buttons to push to make their opponents go nuts and make mistakes. In part due to a bunch of chaos created by Ryan Kesler and in part due to some immaturity on the Flames part, the Ducks were provided with six power plays. They scored twice.
With the Flames missing Dougie Hamilton due to an illness, the locals were already behind the eight-ball in term of matching the Ducks. Their slew of penalties were the primary factor in their 3-1 loss to Anaheim at the Saddledome.
The home side seemed to embrace playing a road style game in the opening frame, opting to play a dump-and-chase game rather than run and gun with the Ducks. As a result, there were hardly any shots or chances early on. Calgary opened the scoring midway through the period with a familiar combination connecting yet again: Matthew Tkachuk sprung Mikael Backlund on an almost breakaway – he entered the zone and basically engaged in a mini-footrace with a pair of Ducks – but Backlund beat John Gibson to make it 1-0. The Flames and Ducks exchanged late period chances, including a flurry around the Calgary net-front after a Flames power play that somehow resulted in no goal, but nobody else scored. Shots were 13-7 Flames in the opening 20 minutes.
The Ducks evened things up early in the second period. With Mark Giordano in the box, Chad Johnson made the initial save through oodles of traffic but kicked a rebound right to where Antoine Vermette was for the easy goal on a wide-open net. The Flames challenged the goal on the basis that Corey Perry was impeding Johnson’s side-to-side movement – you could see a case for it, but it was a tad weak – but the goal stood.
Fans like that. Stajan gets tied up with Kesler. And while he’s trying to beak, Hathaway whacks his stick out of his hands.
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) December 30, 2016
In case you weren’t aware, fans in attendance on this evening loathed Ryan Kesler to his very core. The Flames killed that penalty off. On a late period Ducks advantage, with Dennis Wideman in the box, Alex Chiasson and Sam Bennett were sprung on a two-on-none:
Bennett and Chiasson, on a 2-on-0 on the PK, can’t finish.
— AOL Keyword: Mike (@mikeFAIL) December 30, 2016
Shots were 10-8 Anaheim in the second.
The Ducks pressed in the second but the Flames’ dam didn’t quite break. Cracks formed in the third and water started to spurt out, though. Early in the period, Wideman was caught pinching and that left Jyrki Jokipakka to defend a two-on-one rush. Jakob Silfverberg elected to shoot and beat Johnson high to make it 2-1. The Ducks added another goal on the power play, just after the Flames killed off a lengthy five-on-three. The initial shot was stopped but Rickard Rakell dove onto the loose puck and made it 3-1. Calgary pulled their goalie late but couldn’t generate enough. Shots were 11-8 Flames in the third.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
In my preview, I noted that the Flames needed to stay out of the box. Regardless of the circumstances, they gave Anaheim six man advantages. They scored on two. That’s the game. Obviously teams can’t be pushed around, but they also can’t take too many retaliatory penalties.
Spent literally three minutes and 35 seconds interviewing in the Flames dressing room and heard the word undisciplined at least 15 times.
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) December 30, 2016
In addition, the Flames were missing their best pure defenseman – or at least the one that’s added the most to their lineup this year – and really seemed to struggle generating much off the rush. Once they got down a goal, they really struggled to get much going and it made life easy on Anaheim.
THE TURNING POINT
There are actually two:
- The missed two-on-zero rush late in the second period could’ve given Calgary a lead going into the third…or at least have given them an offensive zone face-off.
- The second Anaheim goal, preceded by Wideman over-committing on a pinch and leaving Jokipakka all alone, was a back-breaker tonight.
Backlund is probably not at 100% after the shot block to the knee against Colorado, but he was a warrior for the Flames tonight.
Stick-taps go to T.J. Brodie (27:18 of ice-time), Kris Versteeg, Michael Frolik and Tkachuk. Heck, Johnson was rock-solid after not playing for a good stretch.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. All stats courtesy Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
In his post-game press conference, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan noted that he wouldn’t have used a challenge on the third Anaheim goal had he one available.
Tyler Wotherspoon, told he might be playing this morning, logged 8:28 in the game: 4:36 in the first, 2:04 in the second and 1:48 in the third. He was decent for what he was asked to do and the role he was given.
“The frustrating part for me is we approached this as a playoff game and I thought we did some really good things, with lots of guys…I thought it was a great hockey game. Yet there was some cheating going on in our group, a couple players, and that can’t happen. If you’re going to play these type of games, this is a play-off type game, there’s no margin for cheating.” – Gulutzan, on the most frustrating part of the evening’s loss.
“I wouldn’t have called that goalie interference. It’s just a puck bounced right over to the guy with a wide-open net. It’s just one of those plays. I just tried to get over there and got tangled up after, so I wouldn’t expect it to be goalie interference but I think in that situation you want to challenge it and see what happens.” – Flames goaltender Chad Johnson on the coach’s challenge on the first Anaheim goal.
The Flames (19-17-2) polish off 2016 with one last game at home when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.