The Calgary Flames are in the midst of their longest road trip of the season. Tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals was the half-way point of the road trip. It was perhaps the team’s best game of the season – which is interesting, since their previous best game of the season was also against the Capitals. The Flames were thoroughly good against a pretty strong Capitals team en route to a 4-1 road victory, getting goals from their key players.
The first few minutes of this game was probably enough to make most fans nervous. Jakub Vrana beat out Travis Hamonic on a dump-in, speeding past him and feeding Lars Eller in the slot (as T.J. Brodie over-skated the puck) for a tap-in to make it 1-0. But a few minutes later, Sean Monahan sprung Johnny Gaudreau on a rush chance and Gaudreau beat Braden Holtby with a wrister stick-side to make it 1-1. Shots were 12-11 Washington, scoring chances were 10-7 Flames.
The Flames really took over the game in the second period, with their power play giving them a lead. The man advantage had several in-close chances and Holtby went back and forth making a few saves, but the puck trickled through him and Monahan tucked the puck into the open net to make it 2-1. Shots were 13-6 Flames, scoring chances were 8-6 Flames.
The visitors kept piling on in the third period. Mikael Backlund buried a rebound on the power play five minutes in to make it 3-1. Two minutes later, just seconds after a subsequent power play expired, a Mark Giordano point shot beat Holtby through traffic to make it 4-1 – Jaromir Jagr got an assist and had a great screen on Holtby. Shots were 15-12 Flames, scoring chances were 10-9 Washington.
Why The Flames Won
Honestly? Aside from how shaky the Hamonic/Brodie duo were on the first goal, the Flames played one of their best games of the season. It wasn’t quite a 60-minute effort, but they played 54 really good minutes. They were better at even strength and their special teams were much better than Washington’s. They trailed for just 3:47 and led for more than half the game.
I hate using this term, but after an awful effort in Detroit and a rough first period against Philadelphia this was the exact type of game they needed to have to give them momentum for the back half of their road trip.
Gotta go with Monahan, who scored his team-leading (and league-leading) fifth game-winner of the season. But aside from the fourth line and the Brodie/Hamonic pair, just about everybody had a good game.
The Turning Point
Backlund’s power play goal in the third period gave the Flames a two-goal lead on the road… and it came with a delayed penalty call to Washington, so they had an additional two minutes of PP time after that. They had a lead and tons of momentum, and they never looked back.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
The Flames (12-8-0) are off to Columbus, Ohio for the fourth stop on their whirlwind tour! They face the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Wednesday night.