(Anne-Marie Sorvin / USA Today Sports)
Saturday night’s collision between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks was big for both teams. The Flames had a golden chance to effectively end Vancouver’s playoff hopes. The Canucks had a chance to claw closer to the Flames and keep their post-season dreams alive for another night. In a tight-checking, playoff-like atmosphere, it ended up being largely the performance of the two netminders that determined things.
The Flames lost 2-1 in overtime to Vancouver. They were both extremely unlucky to only get the single point and extremely fortunate to get anything at all considering how close they came to leaving empty-handed.
Here’s the gist of how this game went: the Flames had the puck a lot and had a lot of shots and shot attempts. The Canucks got a first period goal from the freakin’ center ice line, as Alex Edler’s shot knuckle-balled on Brian Elliott and beat him below the glove. Elliott was good for the rest of the game, but that one hurts.
The remainder of the game featured more of the same: the Flames had the puck a lot and had a lot of shtos and shot attempts, but couldn’t get the puck to the guts of the ice – the slot and net-front – to really bang anything home. They kept missing the net or their pass or handled the puck a little bit too much to make dangerous plays connect. They also seemed to keep taking dumb penalties – Kris Versteeg and Troy Brouwer each got unsportsmanlike conduct calls for beaking at the officials – and that really derailed the team’s momentum.
Through 40 minutes it felt like the Flames would get nothing out of this one. Then they buckled down and leaned on the Canucks for the third period. They out-shot them 18-2. They stopped taking penalties. They kept drawing penalties. Sure, the Johnny Gaudreau power play unit couldn’t get set up for good chances, but they had zone time. The Flames pulled Brian Elliott late and finally put the Mikael Backlund power play unit on, which led to Mark Giordano beating Ryan Miller with a slapper just inside the far post with just 5.6 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and send things to overtime.
Chris Tanev scored on the rush, off a gorgeous pass by Daniel Sedin on a two-on-two rush against Backlund and Michael Frolik, to end things early in overtime.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
Honestly, it was a bunch of little things. The primary reason was they didn’t make life difficult enough for Miller. He saw virtually all of Calgary’s 36 shots. There weren’t a lot of tips. There wasn’t a ton of traffic in front. They didn’t do enough to open up the middle of the ice and the Canucks, to their credit, did just fine clogging up the middle of the ice for the most part. The slew of dumb penalties the Flames took in the second period also didn’t help things.
On the other hand, they got a point out of this evening because they stuck with it. There have been a ton of games where you can virtually see Glen Gulutzan tearing his hair out on the bench because his team abandons their system and tries to get too fancy when they’re trailing. Tonight, they did their thing for 60 minutes against a goaltender that has had their number all season. They didn’t waver all that much, they just kept at it. And they seemed to believe that they’d get a goal and get rewarded.
They did, at the very last possible moment, and so they got a point.
THE TURNING POINT
Giordano’s goal, scored with the extra attacker out, tied things up at the last possible moment. It was also the first appearance of the Backlund power play unit in after the Gaudreau unit struggled to enter the zone for the better part of a minute and a half.
But some nice passing and a nice shot captured the Flames a much-needed point.
It’s always a safe bet to go with Matthew Tkachuk. He drew two penalties and had the primary assist on the game-tying goal in the game’s dying seconds. When the game is on the line, Gulutzan seems completely fine with throwing a 19-year-old kid out there.
Elliott was quite good aside from allowing that muffin in the first.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
With his assist, Tkachuk moves two points back of Mikael Backlund for the team lead in scoring.
Matt Bartkowski played his first game with the Flames, wearing #44. He played 10:55 almost exclusively with Dennis Wideman on the third pairing. He was occasionally noticeable for jumping into the play, but didn’t seem to get caught. Otherwise? A rather low-key debut, which is probably good for a depth defender.
The Flames (29-26-4) fly home tonight and have tomorrow off. They practice on Monday and then head out to Nashville, where they continue their road trip on Tuesday evening in a big Western Conference collision against the Predators.
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