The Tampa Bay Lightning are really good. They’re the best score-adjusted possession team in hockey. But being good at possession doesn’t always result in a ton of goals. That was the case tonight when they faced the Calgary Flames. The Flames were largely out-played at even strength this evening, but they got better goaltending than the Lightning. Playing the best team in the National Hockey League, the Flames played smart, opportunist hockey and rode a strong goaltending performance to a 5-1 victory to extend their winning streak to five games.
The opening period was essentially two periods. In the first half of the period, the Flames were aggressive and the Lightning seemed taken aback by the pace. The visitors opened the scoring with a nice sequence; Johnny Gaudreau was halted on a zone entry, but he passed the puck at the blueline to Sean Monahan and sprung him and Micheal Ferland into the offensive zone. Monahan teed up Ferland for a one-timer and that made it 1-0 Flames. Tampa woke up midway through the period and gradually got better and better chances, but Mike Smith was sharp. Shots were 16-7 Lightning, while scoring chances were 10-5 Lightning.
The Lightning wasted no time evening this game up in the second period. Just 31 seconds in, Brayden Point scored from the high slot off a nice set-up from Tyler Johnson – the scoring chance enabled by a turnover by the visitors at the Flames blueline. Smith made a massive save on Cedric Paquette on a penalty shot in the middle of the period, then the Flames got a big penalty kill with Garnet Hathaway in the box. Roughly 30 seconds after that kill, Gaudreau gave the Flames a lead they would never give up. After inducing a Lightning turnover in the offensive zone, Gaudreau headed to the Lightning end. Ferland fed him a pass at the blueline and Gaudreau danced around Andrei Vasilevskiy and tucked the puck between his pads to make it 2-1.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 12, 2018
And the Flames got their first power play goal since the Chicago game late in the period. After a faceoff win, T.J. Brodie wandered in from the slot and skated around the net, feeding Sam Bennett. Bennett either tried a weak shot or a pass across the slot, but the puck bonked off Braydon Coburn’s stick and into the net to make it 3-1. Shots were 11-10 Flames, while scoring chances were 6-3 Lightning.
The Flames entered the third period with a lead for the fifth consecutive game. This time, they didn’t give up a thing in the third. Mark Jankowski made it 4-1 off a nice pass from Hathaway and a sweet deke around Yanni Gourde before going shelf on Vasilevskiy.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 12, 2018
Troy Brouwer fed Matthew Tkachuk on a two-on-one rush to make it 5-1. The Lightning had an edge in shots (8-6) and scoring chances (8-2).
Why The Flames Won
Let’s be blunt here: the Flames were fortunate to be tied midway through this game. Their goaltending kept them in this one. But they were in a position where their special teams could tilt the game when both teams had a power play in the last five minutes of the second. Tampa got nothing from their power play and the Flames got a lucky break on theirs, and suddenly it was 3-1. From there, the Flames made hay in the first half of the third period and kept the lead for once.
Smith was good consistently, while their special teams units were good when they needed them to be.
We gotta go with Smith, who was superb all evening. But every line had nice moments in fits and starts, though overall the team was back on their heels possession-wise for roughly two-thirds of the game.
The Turning Point
The kill with Hathaway in the box was pretty big, especially considering the Flames scored immediately afterwards. The final five minutes in the second period swung the game.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
The five Flames goals were scored by five different goal-scorers, each of which were drafted and developed by the Flames.
Gulutzan: "That's a heck of a team over here. Boy, they've got some good players. I thought Smitty and the penalty kill were the difference. The turning point was the penalty shot save … our top guys made some plays and capitalized. We'll take the win."
— Kristen Odland (@Kristen_Odland) January 12, 2018
It’s worth noting that Victor Hedman left the game early in the second period after an awkward collision with Hathaway. Tampa had to ride with five defenders the rest of the way. It’s not the reason they lost, but it was definitely a contributing factor.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper had a bit of fun with the Flames, putting these signs throughout the road team’s coaches office:
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) January 12, 2018
The Drive to 95 (Points)
The Flames now have 50 points with 39 games remaining. They need 45 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 22-16-1 record to hit the 95 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.
The Flames (23-16-4) are shuffling across the state, as they play in Sunrise tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers (puck drop at 5:30 p.m. MT on Sportsnet Flames).