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Photo Credit: Candice Ward / USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Blown Lead Pushes Flames To The Brink

Game 3 between the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks was the 2016-17 Flames season in a nutshell. They played really well through the first 35 minutes of the game, giving themselves a 4-1 lead. Then they allowed a late goal and gradually their lead evaporated before their very eyes as Murphy’s Law reared its head in a big, big way.

The Flames lost a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker to the Ducks. You can say all you want about how the goals managed to get into the back of their net, but teams that succeed in the playoffs just don’t blow big leads. From the thrilling first period and a half to their defensive zone calamities, this game was a highlight reel for this year’s edition of the Flames – for better and for worse.

THE RUNDOWN

The first period was the start the Flames have needed all series. They got a ton of shots early. They skated really well in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the period. When they did, they gave the Ducks fits and generated a lot of scoring chances and penalties from their frustrated opponents.

Matt Bartkowski beat Nick Ritchie to a loose puck in the first two minutes and got knocked down, drawing an interference penalty. On the ensuing power play, Johnny Gaudreau corralled his own rebound and initiated a nice tic-tac-toe passing play by which Troy Brouwer found Sean Monahan out front for a tap-in and a 1-0 lead.

The Ducks killed off a Korbinian Holzer holding penalty, but after Hampus Lindholm crashed into Brian Elliott the Flames’ power play unit struck again. A T.J. Brodie point shot was followed by a goal-mouth scramble, which ended with Kris Versteeg knocking the loose puck past John Gibson to make it 2-0.

The Flames slowed down a tad as the period went on, and Nick Ritchie made it 2-1 by beating the Flames defenders to a big rebound off an Antoine Vermette wrister from way out. The Ducks couldn’t muster much more before the buzzer, though. Shots were 11-6 in the first in favour of the Flames.

The second period was fairly even early on, but the Flames took advantage of some chances early on to extend their lead. They made it 3-1 off a broken play and some heads up play by their blueliners. A T.J. Brodie point shot bounced off a defender and went right back to the point for Michael Stone to rifle through traffic and beat Gibson to make it 3-1.

Midway through the period, the Flames generated yet another power play with speed through the neutral zone. Holzer took a second minor of the game hooking Johnny Gaudreau on a partial breakaway. While the first (Brouwer) power play unit couldn’t generate very much, Sam Bennett made nice plays at both ends of the offensive zone to start and finish a scoring play. He dipsy-doodled into the zone at the blueline, dished the puck off, and then deflected Mark Giordano’s point shot past Gibson to make it 4-1 and end the Anaheim starter’s evening a tad early.

The Ducks got one back late in the period off a goal that Elliott probably wants back. Shea Theodore sauntered into the Flames zone and beat Elliott glove-side with a wrist shot from the circles to cut the Flames lead to 4-2. Shots were 13-8 in favour of Calgary in the second.

Anaheim built on their finish to the third by continuing to push the Flames, who went from playing an aggressive defensive period to hanging back. The Ducks made the most of the chances, much to the chagrin of the home crowd. Nate Thompson deflected a Hampus Lindholm point shot past Elliott, squeaking between his legs, to make it 4-3. Theodore got his second of the night a few minutes later, with his point shot eluding Elliott through traffic to make it 4-4. Elliott protested and seemed to think he was interfered with, but nobody was anywhere near him or the crease when the puck went in. Shots were 12-8 Anaheim in the third period.

90 seconds into bonus hockey, Corey Perry chucked a puck at the net. It bounced around, hit Stone in his backside and went past Elliott to end this one via a 5-4 score for the Ducks. It was the only shot on net in overtime.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

The Flames did a lot of good things for the first two periods. They skated well. They passed well. They won battles. They beat the Ducks to every loose puck. They drew penalties.

And then? They stopped doing those things, while the Ducks made a bunch of adjustments. The Flames stopped being able to clear out pucks with regularity. They stood around in the defensive zone and took away their goalie’s ability to track pucks. They stopped skating. They stopped winning battles. And their goaltender couldn’t come up with a save when his team needed him to late in the game.

The Flames were good enough to have a 4-1 lead by the midpoint of this game. After that? Due to what they stopped doing and how they didn’t adjust to what Anaheim was doing, they were bad enough to blow their lead to smithereens.

THE TURNING POINT

Can I cop out and just say “the third period”? The Flames went from flat to downright lacklustre right before our very eyes. As they did so, their lead collapsed like a poorly constructed house of cards.

If I have to pick a singular moment, let’s go with Theodore’s first goal. It was a floater that beat Elliott glove-side late in the second. It wasn’t even a terribly interesting scoring chance, but it seemed to indicate just how off his game Calgary’s top ‘tender was on this night. It ultimately turned out to be a portent of doom for the home side.

RED WARRIOR

Bennett was probably the best player in red tonight. His line (with Chiasson and Versteeg) was superb in the first two periods and pretty decent in the third. Everybody else? They were worse.

THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)

Player Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Versteeg 64.7 100 1.160
Bennett 60.0 90.0 1.050
Engelland 58.1 58.3 -0.050
Chiasson 57.9 100 0.200
Bartkowski 54.6 58.3 0.025
Ferland 53.3 72.7 0.150
Monahan 50.0 60.0 1.725
Brodie 50.0 35.7 1.375
Stone 48.6 35.7 0.825
Tkachuk 48.3 10.0 -0.125
Gaudreau 47.2 64.3 0.650
Bouma 44.4 40.0 -0.250
Brouwer 42.9 30.0 0.710
Frolik 42.4 10.0 -0.025
Stajan 42.1 40.0 -0.290
Backlund 41.9 9.1 1.035
Giordano 40.5 64.3 0.300
Hamilton 39.5 64.3 -0.625
Elliott -1.400

THIS AND THAT

No Flames skater had a positive plus/minus:

  • Even: Brodie, Stone, Frolik
  • -1: Giordano, Versteeg, Backlund, Gaudreau, Bouma, Stajan, Tkachuk, Monahan, Brouwer Chiasson
  • -2: Hamilton, Engelland, Ferland
  • -3: Bartkowski

QUOTABLE

UP NEXT

The Flames practice tomorrow as they prepare for a big Game 4 showdown with the Ducks at the Saddledome on Wednesday evening with their playoff survival on the line.

  • Moneyball

    This doesn’t seem like a team that will be swept. I think the Flames will dominate in game 4 and then who know what could happen. You play all the games because you need 4 to close the series not 3.

    • Franko J

      I disagree. This lose is totally devastating for each and every player in that locker room. When you have goaltending that is below average it brings down the whole team. Outside of the PP, Calgary has maybe two or three players who have played to their potential, otherwise the rest of the team has struggled. Unfortunately the Ducks have all the Karma in this series.

  • Juan Valdez

    I didn’t see the killer instinct that I expected in the third period. I knew they were going to sit on the lead because that’s what they’ve done all year, but it’s a losing strategy in the playoffs and Gulutzan failed to adapt.

  • Captain Ron

    I don’t ever remember leaving a sporting event feeling this low. Crazy to lose a game in a manner like this at home. Another goal call goes against us, no bounces, don’t give the opposition a PP and still lose.

    I’d start Johnson next game. Sit Brouwer and Bouma in place of Hamilton and Lazar while your at it.

    • fretsey

      I agree,common sense dictates that it had to be a high tip.The player is 6’2″ on skates and his stick is almost parallel with his shoulders at contact with the puck.The way to rule stands the TO war-room should never be able to overturn an “on the ice call” because TO “can’t prove” if it’s a high stick or not-there are no cameras setup to enforce the rule.

    • NickRash

      Thompson is 4 feet tall as well, just kidding but the center ice camera showed it pretty well, they only showed that particular camera replay once on the broadcast so maybe you missed it, it was close but looked good to me.

  • RKD

    Just awful, Gulutzan is too much status quo. After a game 1 loss, no lineup changes and they lose. Tonight the Ducks make it 4-3 but no timeout by Gulutzan to settle down the troops. Gulutzan wants to live and die by the sword sorry that doesn’t work. We need some lineup changes but now you put in guys in a high pressure situation when you could have them in game 2. We need more from Gaudreau, he needs to shoot and score. The 3M line needs to get going asap. We did a much better job of staying disciplined but still have yet to string together a full 60 minutes, the Flames stopped playing after 2 periods. Elliott hasn’t stolen a game for us yet.

  • kipper2004

    Elliot just lost a contract Tonight!
    Too bad it didn’t work out like everyone hoped, crushing loss for the fans and team. Gotta think Burkies head exploded after this one.

      • kipper2004

        You are right, let’s include the 2nd game as well, last 2 games lost him a contract. Players make and lose hay in the playoffs when they are a UFA, Elliot lost some dough regardless of the 10 game win streak, that’s just the way it is. Elliot didn’t keep his eyes on the puck in the second half of the game and was too worried about what was around him, he even flopped on the goalie interference call.

          • kipper2004

            Elliot is 26 Wins and 21 Losses as a flame if you include the playoffs, at what point is he a hero. To be honest the Flames crease is cursed for most guys not named Kipper or Vernon, so I don’t blame Elliot for the everything but he is not the answer for the team to make the next step, just like Ramo, Hiller, et al. I am guessing Bishop’s agent will be getting a few calls from the Flames this summer.

          • KKisTHEproblem

            did you not see the first half of the season? Elliot was awful and almost cost us the season until Johnson came in and rescued his a$$. He had a really good 2 months, then came back to earth in the last 10 games. He is now back to where he was at the start of the season: awful.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Remind me again if it was Harvard or Yale that you graduated from with that idiotic comment? Clearly, you have never played any team sport or if you have, you were the most hated dude on your team. Who really blew it was you and your imbecilic remark and the 5 pissheads who approved.

      • Damm shame

        ??? What are you talking about? Elliott had a bad game I don’t know what there is to argue about? And pretty sure your the most hated guy here bud. This whole internet thing isn’t for you

        • BlueMoonNigel

          You are blaming one guy for a team losing a game? Do you have even the remotest concept of what “team” means and what a “team sport” is?

          Sure Moose played poorly but did he alone cause the team to lose? Don’t think so.

          No one man ever loses or wins a team game. Remember that and you might be capable of educated discourse.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          So classy is dumping on Moose? A real Flames jumps on Moose and demands he never again tend goal for the Flames. Have I got it?

          Now its up to 17 pissheads who all lay the loss at the feet of Moose. I just don’t get how a team game is lost by one player and not one of you bozos can explain it to me.

    • Moneyball

      The worst goaltender last night was not Elliot, but Gibson. This loss blows, but it was not all the goaltenders fault, some bad luck and good play on behalf of the ducks. Gibson on the other hand was brutal, 2 essy ones in the first nearly sank the Ducks.

  • Lucky 13

    Thank you Elliott, he plays great when the rest of our team stinks and plays like he is poo when our team plays well in front of him…. we should have had this game in the postseason bank but again the Duck curse has affected Toronto review centre as well.. how the heck was Thompsons goal not a high stick? In what world would that be a good goal? His stick is at least a foot or more above the crossbar when he makes contact with the puck!

    That goal took all our momentum and handed it to the Ducks and apparently rattled Elliott so much that he couldn’t stop a thing after that. Actually that previous was even worse, fluttered over his glove.. gawd
    Please Elliott, be better!

    Can someone please tell GG to use his freakin timeouts?
    You notice that Carlyle pulled his goalie when he wasn’t sharp?
    Nope not GG, stay the course, don’t deviate from the plan.

    We’re gone in 4 if Glen doesn’t make any adjustments.
    That’s my opinion only, sorry FN I was hoping for a win tonight.

  • DXB

    GG obsession with building his system at the sacrifice of building a team that plays for each other. the high man covering the point on the tying goal cost the game. If your not throwing yourself in-front of pucks in a one goal game in the biggest game of the season there is something wrong…blame whoever you want but this team is playing like the patchwork that GG has put together.

  • SeanforMVP

    idk whats more embarrassing, the loss or the fact that majority of the “fans” on this site are jumping on every player and coach that brought us to the playoffs

      • SeanforMVP

        im not making excuses for the team, it was pathetic out there tonight but its not the end of the world. Maybe its time to pick new team if you can’t deal with some tough losses or a disappointing season

  • Brownblazer

    I’m sick of hearing the rhetoric that the Flames sat on the lead. This game was a blow out in the making. They dominated the game and the flow of play. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a game where so many goals went against the flow of play. The first ANA goal was against the flow, as was the 2nd ANA goal. Both brutal. I too thought the Flames would just sit on the lead. But they didn’t. The shots were 10-1 in the 3rd until the Ducks scored the ‘high stick’ goal. Then Bennett had a beast mode shift, it went to 4 on 4 and then at that point the Ducks took the play to the flames – and created their tying goal. In my opinion that is really the only time the Ducks showed any sustained pressure in the whole game. They did not deserve to be in that game.

    I’m sorry, but that game is TOTALLY on Elliot. 4 out of 5 goals were his to save. Goal #1 – rebound into the slot – against the flow of play. Goal # 2 – I don’t care if Hamilton deflected it or not. A useless wrister from the boards? Goal # 3 – only goal I don’t fault him on – the ‘high stick’ – I blame the officials on that one. Goal # 4 – sure some traffic, but it looked like the top half of the net was open. The OT goal – again, repeat from #1, weak shot from the boards and rebound into the slot? Yikes.

    The leadership question – come on.

    Not sure if I’ve ever seen a 3-0 series lead for one team in which it felt like the series should be even or at least tilted in the direction of the other team. Every game Elliot let in 1-2 bad goals, against the flow of play. That is a killer, not only in the playoffs, but especially for a team that is young and relatively inexperienced.

    • flames2015

      I agree, start Johnson next game and get lazar/ f hamilton in. Doesn’t elliot also have a horribke all time record against the ducks? Get the local boy in there. gg should have changed the line up tonight, its playoff hockey. Theres no time for floaters and thats exactly what bouma and brouwer are! 5 hits in 3 games and zero blocks for bouma. I feel bad for the flames fans that had to endure this live at the dome tonight.

    • imthedude63

      Bang on….Sure Elliott helped get the Flames into the playoffs but he has been brutal the last two games. Also the Ducks took over the faceoff circle in the third period and OT and it cost us. It sure blows and hurts but you have to learn how to win and the young Flames are learning Big Time

  • Guest

    Meh, it was three lucky goals and one that was without a doubt a high stick. Replays in all sports have turned into “if it’s not 300% conclusive it’s the same call”.

    Calgary has generally been the better team with way worse luck. Hopefully it leads to an offseason upgrading Bartkowski, Engelland, Bouma and Brouwer. And maybe we can win the goaltending battle.

    The Ducks have been a disappointment to me. Slightly goonish and mostly lucky. Their run of greatness will be over this playoffs and they will be a marginal playoff team in 2018. If the streak doesn’t end in game 5 it definitely does in 2018.

  • C Watson

    Much as I would like to hang this on Moose, I really do blame GG. He has done a lot of good things this season but his stubornness has really hurt the team. When Gibbons was pulled the Ducks play was elevated. When Elliott wasn’t pulled the Flames play was deflated.

    • Torchy

      I can understand not pulling Elliott based upon his past results, but I didn’t like the response to the goals. after he 2nd, 3rd, and 4th goals he immediately started in on the “not me” stuff. I think he was just caught up in the moment but even if you are totally robbed (ie. Nate Thompson’s goal from the concourse) you have to keep composed.

      Kipper would have popped his helmet, had a drink, and moved on with life.

  • If someone would have told me before the playoffs that CGY, MIN, CBJ, and CHI would be 0 – 12 to start the playoffs, I would say that it is not possible. All of these series show that in hockey, the team that deserves to win often comes out on the bottom. Unpredictability is what makes the game so exciting but really hurts when you are on the wrong end of it.

    I feel sorry for hockey players when they have to explain the reasons for a loss or have to take the blame for a loss as if it is something under their control. The reality is that hockey involves shooting a tiny black thing at about 100 miles per hour that sometimes finds its way through crowds. It is not because one team wanted it more or because one team was less prepared. The little black thing bounced the wrong way. That’s it.

      • I’m simply saying that the best team does not always win, especially in hockey. Obviously, the better team should win most of the time. But in hockey, a very good team wins less than 70% of their games.

        In this series, I believe that the Ducks are the slightly better team. But if all things bounced fairly, either the Ducks or Flames would have a 2 – 1 lead. All three games were very close and the outcome was determined by a bounce, or an iffy call. It’s hard to believe that CHI, MIN, and CBJ are all in the same boat. The only way to explain it is chance occurrence.

    • cberg

      Although there is a lot of truth to that, not all, but some, the thing that bothers me the most is the riffing and review calls this series. Last night the reffing was actually very good, and fairly done (Anaheim’s 5 calls versus Calgary’s 0 a surprise?), but the “high stick” call and review was abysmal. Clearly the contact was AT LEAST a foot above the crossbar. How anyone can dispute that is beyond comprehension and whatever twisted logic or so-called rules were used to support it demean not only the game but the whole sport. Pathetic. A sporting competition should NEVER come down to that sort of arbitrary interference from the officials. NEVER.

  • Rocket66

    Well I’m done Maybe I’m the flames curse cause every time I watch them they lose I’m not doing it anymore In fact I didn’t even watch the overtime period I cannot and will not defend the coaching staff. And do you think tre will be back. Burke can go too. These people are watching from upstairs Do they not see what’s going on So anyway call it what you may superstition says I’m not watching anymore maybe that will change things. One more thing though why are games so late can the east ever start early No west doesn’t matter just the same on penalties. Hope wideman is gone then the so called curse should be too

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Haven’t seen Flames fans toss their playoff goalie under the bus like this since 1988 when Mickey Vernon was Calgary’s most hated Flame. Hell, the morons at the time were even calling for Fletch to get Beauregard or Ratso Rasako , anybody to replace the future HOFer. What a totally ignorant overreaction by the beer bellies! Now I am seeing the same thing with Moose. As I know, the 4 year $20-$25 million contract the Flames intend to extend Moose with is still on the table and is not going to be yanked off the table because of a poor effort last night.

    Team as a whole is to blame for last night’s stinker. Team is simply not tournament tough. They don’t have what it takes to punch out one of the league’s big boys.

    Elliott’s le

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Stand behind your team Flames fans anything can happen. Letting Elliot shoulder all the blame is just wrong. Where is Walter White the worst Flame fan in the nation probably crawled under a rock. Flames fans deserve better they are some of the best fans in the NHL I think your team will give you something to cheer about before this series is over.