The Calgary Flames haven’t won in Anaheim since 2004. They weren’t very good when they played the Ducks in Calgary on Sunday, but they only lost by a goal and probably learned a thing or two about their opponents. Tonight at the Honda Center, the Flames scored a nice first period goal to take a lead. Then they gave up three unanswered goals and were dragged into a series of fights, scrums and other dumb physical engagements that made them look like rank amateurs.
The Flames haven’t won in Anaheim since 2004. They lost 3-1 tonight, running their losing streak in Orange County to an NHL record 25 games.
The Flames had some pep in their step early. They skated well. They generated chances. They seemed to know what they were doing. Mikael Backlund opened the scoring goal, burying a rebound (with some traffic) past John Gibson to make it 1-0.
1. loves dogs
2. good guy in the community
3. surrogate father to tkachuk
4. career year
5. scores goals
He is Mikael Backlund
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 5, 2017
Shots were 11-3 Calgary in the first.
The Ducks scored 48 seconds into the second. The Flames, for some reason, started the fourth line. They iced the puck. Ryan Getzlaf won a face-off and Patrick Eaves scored on the ensuing scramble to tie the game. Later on in the period, a Kevin Bieksa slap shot eluded Brian Elliott – who replaced Chad Johnson early in the game – and trickled into the net to make it 2-1. The goal was challenged by Glen Gulutzan on the basis of being off-side, but it stood. The Ducks took over the flow of the game from that point. Shots were 9-9.
The Ducks dictated the play in the third period. The Flames had a few chances here and there, but generate too much. The game seemed destined to be a rather blah one-goal Flames loss until Mark Giordano collided with Cam Fowler knee-on-knee in the Flames zone. Fowler left with a lower body injury. Shortly after that incident, Chris Wagner scored to make it 3-1 on a passing play made possible by the fourth line’s indifference to back-checking after the initial Ducks scoring chance missed the net.
After that goal, all hell broke loose. Giordano fought Josh Manson in a Code-dictated retaliation fight. But instead of things being settled, they boiled over with no fewer than three big pile-ups in the remainder of the third. The game got basically unwatchable after that point. Shots were 8-7 Anaheim.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
There are two big reasons. Goals and stupidity.
The Flames were the better team for the first 25 minutes of this game. Even when the Ducks started taking the game over, because they’re pretty good, the Flames had four power play opportunities – including a 48 second 5-on-3 advantage in the third period. They had six shots and zero goals. In a game that these guys had to have in order to avoid playing Chicago in the first round, that’s unacceptable.
The other reason was stupidity, in that the Flames allowed themselves to be sucked into the hugging and punching of the final 12 minutes of this game. The Ducks are a big, mean veteran team. They have the ability to drag teams into the muck if you let them. Just as they did in that awful game the Flames played against Los Angeles last week, the Flames let the Ducks drag them into the muck.
"It was hard to get that push in the end with everything going on." – Mikael Backlund on the third period
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) April 5, 2017
THE TURNING POINT
The Bieksa goal wasn’t great and put the Flames behind the eight-ball against a team that knows how to play with a lead. But the Flames also had a ton of time to get that one back. The third period two-man advantage was a huge missed opportunity.
Once again, Bennett’s line was the most dangerous Flames unit. Everyone else had flashes of being good, but failed to put together a full game.
(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
THIS AND THAT
Flames goalie coach Jordan Sigalet dressed as emergency back-up goaltender after Chad Johnson left with an injury in the first period.
After the Flames loss, they cannot catch Anaheim, Edmonton or San Jose and will finish in one of the two wildcard spots. They’re tied with Nashville at 92 points with two games to go for each team.
The Flames (44-32-4) practice tomorrow in scenic El Segundo, California, and prepare for Game 81 on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings.
GETAWAY WITH AMA