(Charles LeClaire / USA Today Sports)
The Calgary Flames arrived in Pittsburgh this evening hoping for a big effort against the Penguins. The Flames have had a pretty good stretch recently and, as they’re heading into their bye week, could really use a pair of points to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
Well, thanks to a great performance by Chad Johnson and some timely goals the Flames beat the defending Stanley Cup champions 3-2 in a shootout.
The opening period was rather tentative, with the Flames failing to register many good scoring chances and generally just trying to avoid getting lit up by the Penguins early on. Neither side scored. Shots were 7-7.
The Penguins stepped on the gas in the first half of the second period. They were all over the Flames, who were really held in it by their goaltender. Johnson was very good, though some credit has to go to his teammates for giving him clean looks at shots as much as possible. Near the end of the period things began to open up for the Flames… and they managed to capitalize. Micheal Ferland scored on a breakaway, stealing the puck from Sidney Crosby just inside the Flames blueline. Ferland out-raced Crosby and Brian Dumoulin and beat Matt Murray to make it 1-0.
Oh, it’s Ferland poking the puck away from Crosby (no big deal) and heading to town.
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) February 8, 2017
A few minutes later the Flames went up 2-0 off a really nice passing sequence by the team’s best line. Michael Frolik tipped a Matthew Tkachuk shot past Murray.
3M line is just perfect. That was…just so perfect. pic.twitter.com/scFeKMnK71
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) February 8, 2017
Shots were 14-7 Penguins in the second.
The Flames kept defending well in the third, but they made a couple mistakes that cost them later in the period. After the fourth line iced it – and were stranded out against Crosby’s line – Chris Kunitz beat Johnson just inside the near post to make it 2-1. As regulation was winding down, Dennis Wideman haphazardly tossed the puck up the middle… where it was intercepted by the Penguins and Jake Guentzel beat Johnson with a quick wrister to tie the game at 2-2. Shots were 12-9 Penguins in the third.
It went to overtime! The Flames got a power play and had tons of zone time – and shots, leading 7-0 – but couldn’t score. (Sean Monahan did score, but it was waved off because Murray lost his mask during the sequence.) But Kris Versteeg beat Murray in the shootout and Johnson stopped all three Penguins to ice this one.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
They won the goaltending duel. Johnson was better than Murray overall and was able to cover up for his team’s occasional defensive miscues. But don’t discount the Flames overall; they gave up more shots and chances, but they did a good job at making life difficult for Crosby for three periods.
THE TURNING POINT
You could probably list off a half-dozen solid Johnson saves here. But in general, overtime was an indicator that the Flames were gonna be fine. They blew a two goal lead in the third, but they seemed like they were out for blood in overtime and they were unlucky enough to have to finish this off in overtime.
Johnson was easily Calgary’s best player. But the 3M Line were all quite good, Brodie had some nice moments, and Versteeg followed up being tossed out of the game on Sunday with the game-deciding shootout goal here.
Re-sign him, Brad.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
Gaudreau took his first minor penalty of 2016-17. His dreams of winning the Lady Byng probably aren’t completely dashed, but he probably should try to stay out of the box from here on out.
Monahan is still stuck on 99 career NHL goals.
The Flames (28-25-3) fly home tonight and don’t even practice again until Sunday afternoon as part of the NHL’s weird new bye week system. They’re back in action on Monday night when they host the Arizona Coyotes.
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