The Calgary Flames weren’t great against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, but they got a point. They hosted the Buffalo Sabres on Monday evening in a game everyone in red probably hoped would be a mulligan for them. Unfortunately, the Flames were still pretty flat and played down to their opposition en route to a 2-1 overtime loss to the Sabres. It’s the type of game where the only positives were “the goalie was good” and “at least they got a point.”
The Flames got a lot of offensive zone time in the first period, but couldn’t generate a lot of good chances. They opened the scoring on the power play. After Matthew Tkachuk drew a tripping call, he also scored the first goal by redirecting a Johnny Gaudreau slap-pass over Chad Johnson’s shoulder to make it 1-0. The home side only had the lead for 24 seconds as a pass in the defensive zone took a bad bounce and ended up in the slot with Scott Wilson, and he beat Mike Smith with a wrister to make it 1-1. Shots were 13-12 Flames and scoring chances were 11-6 Sabres.
Nobody scored in the second period, but the Flames were much better than they were in the first period. Shots were 12-8 Flames, scoring chances were 10-5 Flames. While the Flames had more chances, Buffalo had a lot of good chances and Smith had to be sharp.
Nobody scored in the third period, but Buffalo came out with a ton of energy and the Flames seemed to be trying to hang in there for overtime. Shots were 11-8 Sabres and chances were 7-1 Sabres. Michael Stone and Mikael Backlund took successive late-period penalties that sent Buffalo into overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage.
And in overtime, Jack Eichel scored on a corker of a one-timer 90 seconds in – just after the Flames penalty expired – to make it a 2-1 final for the visitors.
Why The Flames Lost (in Overtime)
The Flames just couldn’t generate enough at even strength, and just couldn’t get enough from their special teams. They had three power plays and scored on their first one, which was easily their best. They failed to really finish off their final kill and it cost them.
It’s gotta be Smith. He and the Backlund line were strong, everyone else was… iffy.
The Turning Point
Backlund’s late penalty. If the Flames can begin overtime at three-on-three, it’s a completely different ballgame.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
Curtis Lazar fought Nathan Beaulieu early in the first after Beaulieu crashed into Lazar and nearly clipped his knee behind the net. Beaulieu went down hard and never returned to the game.
Matthew Tkachuk now leads the league outright in penalties drawn in all situations (with 31), at even-strength penalties drawn (25) and is tied for the lead at all situations penalty differential (+16). What a pest.
The Drive to 95 (Points)
The Flames now have 56 points with 35 games remaining. They need 39 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 19-15-1 record to hit the 95 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.
“You could see a little bit at the end, if there was a scrum or something they’d try to take a guy off with them or something. Hey, you get us down to four and maybe you get one of the top two on the back-end off with them, they can cause a little trouble.” – Sabres defenseman Justin Falk on the Flames trying to make life tough on them with five defensemen (after Nathan Beaulieu left after a first period fight).
“I looked at our guys a couple times and they told me they were fine. I thought they did a heck of a job. There were a bunch of stoppages there with pucks going over the glass, so I didn’t think that had anything to do with the goal.” – Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on opting to keep the Giordano-Stone-Brouwer PK trio out for the entire Backlund penalty kill in overtime.
The Flames (25-16-6) practice tomorrow, then host the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in (a) a big Pacific Division clash and (b) the first of two back-to-back games, as they play in Edmonton on Thursday.