History was made at the palatial, International Olympic Committee approved Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night as the Calgary Flames faced the upstart Vegas Golden Knights for the very first time. Unfortunately for the Flames, a rock-solid 58 minutes of fairly clean hockey turned into a regulation loss as the Flames gave up three goals in 49 seconds en route to a 4-2 loss to the Golden Knights.
The Flames’ points streak ends after 11 games.
The first period was very entertaining early on, with few whistles and lots of pace and nice passing. The Flames got a power play early off a Vegas puck-over-glass penalty but couldn’t bury any of their chances. Vegas got a power play of their own after Sam Bennett caught William Carrier with a high stick, and they capitalized. With tons of bodies in front of Mike Smith – particularly Alex Tuch – Reilly Smith redirected a Jonathan Marchessault point shot into the open net to make it 1-0. Shots were 12-10 Flames, but the locals had as much as a 9-3 edge before Vegas roared back. Scoring chances were 9-8 Vegas.
Vegas came out with some energy in the second period, but neither side got strong chances until midway through the period when Sam Bennett had a good look… and his wrist shot missed the net by several feet. Bennett made up for it on a two-on-one rush with Troy Brouwer. He looked to pass the puck to Brouwer, but Brad Hunt laid out to block the pass. Bennett tried to slide the puck across anyway, but it careened past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 1-1. (Bennett and Hunt crashed into the boards and Bennett briefly went to the locker room, but didn’t miss any shifts.) The Flames took the lead with 77 seconds left in the third off a really nice individual effort by Matthew Tkachuk.
Matthew Tkachuk absolutely fools Marc-Andre Fleury with a sick goal pic.twitter.com/UJkFOzvoO3
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 31, 2018
Tkachuk collected the rebound off an initial Dougie Hamilton shot and went behind the net. He faked to one post, leading to Marc-Andre Fleury diving to the far post… but Tkachuk darted back to the other side and tucked it into the near post (with Fleury trying in vain to recover) to make it 2-1 Flames. Shots were 14-10 Vegas and scoring chances were 8-7 Vegas.
Both teams played a tight third period, with Vegas guarding against giving up a third goal and the Flames trying not to give up too much. Unfortunately, the dam burst for Vegas in the final two minutes. First, Micheal Frolik coughed up the puck and it ended up behind Smith – an errant pass in his own zone to T.J. Brodie ended up on Erik Haula’s stick and the game was tied at 2-2. Off the next face-off, Marchessault danced around a pair of Flames and beat Smith short-side to make it 3-2. And the game was entirely lost by way of a David Perron empty net goal to make it 4-2. Shots were 11-11, while scoring chances were 13-10 Flames.
Why The Flames Lost
Honestly? They played well enough to win, and a power play goal really would’ve been nice, but their jumpiness in their own end late in the game really came back to hurt them. They made adjustments after a shaky end to the first period and carried play for the balance of the game… until the last two minutes. They probably deserved a better fate tonight.
Tkachuk was very good this evening, with his sweet goal being the cherry on top of a very strong game.
The Turning Point
Frolik’s errant pass completely discombobulated the Flames. They ran around their zone for the next 15 seconds, which resulted in two goals.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
Things Vegas’ social media guy seemed to know about Calgary before arriving here: pro wrestling legend (and Canadian national treasure) Bret Hart lives here. Well, the Hitman was at the game!
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 31, 2018
The Flames were 50-0-3 when leading after two periods under Glen Gulutzan heading into tonight, with this being the first regulation loss over the past two seasons in that situation. In four seasons under Bob Hartley, they were 84-9-7 (15th in the NHL by that measure).
The Drive to 95 (Points)
The Flames now have 58 points with 32 games remaining. They need 37 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 18-13-1 record to hit the 95 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.
The Flames (25-17-8) are back in action on Thursday night when they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning.