(Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)
In every season, there are games that can seemingly swing a season. Tonight’s contest between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings wasn’t going to kill Calgary’s playoff chances. But playing against a divisional rival (and a team behind them in the standings), the Flames had a chance to make their playoff hopes more realistic and their lives much easier down the stretch if they could find a way to win.
The Flames never held a lead in this game, but they seemed like a poised, measured, structured team for the most part en route to a 2-1 overtime victory at the Saddledome. While they did seemingly let the Kings dictate the pace at times, they did enough to capture two points.
Heading in, I somewhat expected a playoff atmosphere full of rough-and-tumble hockey. What we got was instead more akin to a chess match of defensive hockey with the physicality creeping in in the later stages of the game.
Tanner Pearson opened the scoring for the Kings on a weird play. With Matt Stajan in the penalty box, Pearson got an initial shot off that was stopped by Elliott. But Elliott couldn’t cover the puck up and Pearson got three good whacks at it, which pushed the puck (and Elliott’s left pad) into the net. The refs blew it down, then chatted and ruled it was a goal. Gulutzan used his challenge but the good stood.
There is your explanation: pic.twitter.com/3jGChJlcy8
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) March 1, 2017
The Flames couldn’t really generate much at even strength early on. Shots were 11-8 Kings.
The visitors began to fatigue in the second period, likely a product of their wild 5-4 loss to Minnesota the night before. The Flames had a few good shifts in the Kings end and then the dam broke.
In one shift Micheal Ferland:
Crushes Jake Muzzin
Scores a goal
This guy is a peach. pic.twitter.com/aPwj0k6E7E
— AOL KEYWORD: Mike (@mikeFAIL) March 1, 2017
The Flames had a bunch of zone time and several chances, but only got the one goal. Shots were 13-6 in the period in their favour.
Neither team scored in the third. The Kings came out of the gates like a team that knew they couldn’t afford another loss after losing in Minnesota. The Flames came out rather patiently. Shots were 11-8 for the visitors.
So off to overtime we went and after a few rushes in either direction, Mikael Backlund sprung T.J. Brodie for a breakaway and the defender went top shelf on Ben Bishop to clinch this one by a 2-1 score.
WHY THE FLAMES WON
This will sound like a broken record, but they stuck with their system and didn’t open things up too much. The adherence to structure often made the game seem a tad slow and plodding, but the Flames simply didn’t let the Kings egg them into breaking their structure and trying to play an end-to-end game.
Quite simply, the Flames were seemingly confident enough in their game plan that they were content to wait for the Kings to make mistakes. They did, they took advantage, and they managed to get two points.
THE TURNING POINT
So, the Kings almost scored with 9 seconds left. A Jake Muzzin dump-in careened off of Mark Giordano, then bounced off Elliott and seemingly hugged the goal line as it trickled across the crease. Giordano shouted at Elliott to not fall back and collected the puck.
It would’ve been a shame for the Flames to lose like that. Fortunately for them, they didn’t.
Giordano had a really solid game, weird bounce that almost beat Elliott aside. He had a nice feed to Ferland on the game-tying goal and he and Dougie Hamilton were a force for much of the game.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Stats via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
Backlund’s assist on the overtime goal bumped him up to 45 points, extending his scoring lead over Johnny Gaudreau to two points.
The Flames finish with a 9-2-1 record in the month of February.
Elliott opened the post-game scrum with a complement of Roger Million’s bow tie before fielding questions.
“Honestly, I thought it had a good shot of going in. I knew Moose didn’t
really know where it was. I was hoping he had it. But the reaction of
the crowd made me think to look behind him to the side of him because it
must have been trickling and sure enough, it was. Hey, lucky break. You
get some of those sometimes and we’ll take it, for sure.” – Flames captain Mark Giordano, on the late shot that deflected off himself and goalie Brian Elliott and almost went in.
“The emotion was good. I thought that in a game like this, your emotion can get the best of you. I thought our guys did a good job of staying with it, staying the course. They were prepared for what type of game it was going to be, and they stuck with it.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on how his team managed their emotion in the playoff-like atmosphere.
Stick-tap to our pal (and yours) Pat Steinberg for busting out the slide-ruler to do the initial calculations on these!
The Flames magic number to clinch began the night at 18. With the Flames overtime win (-1) and Los Angeles’ overtime loss (-0.5), it has dropped to 16.5. Any combination of 16.5 Flames wins or Kings losses clinches a playoff berth for Calgary.
The Flames (34-26-4) are off tomorrow. They’re back on the practice ice on Thursday and back in game action on Friday night when they host the Detroit Red Wings.
But we’ll be with you throughout tomorrow’s festivities!
Flames are off tomorrow in case you’re wondering. But the Calgary media is not. #NHLTradeDeadline
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) March 1, 2017