The Calgary Flames have not been playing amazingly well lately. Perhaps some may have hoped that a trip to Las Vegas to play the National Hockey League’s best home team would bring out the best in a group that has been superb on the road. Well, that didn’t happen. On a night when the hockey world was focused on the Winter Olympics and the women’s hockey gold medal game, the Flames were soundly defeated by the Vegas Golden Knights by a 7-3 score. They had chances, but they couldn’t ever get the proverbial “next goal.”
In a stretch of several contests that can be described as “measuring stick games,” the Flames keep coming up short.
The Flames were rather flat in the first period. Vegas wasn’t overly great, but they were better than the visitors. They scored first, as Mark Jankowski successfully blocked a cross-zone pass from Tomas Hyka, but poked it right to Ryan Carpenter, whose backhander beat David Rittich to make it 1-0. The Golden Knights carried play for much of the period, but the Flames tied it late. T.J. Brodie pinched and managed to redirect a Travis Hamonic slapshot through Marc-Andre Fleury’s legs to make it 1-1. But Michael Frolik took a penalty late and William Karlsson redirected a Reilly Smith shot in the slot to make it 2-1 Golden Knights. Vegas held an edge in shots (9-5) and scoring chances (5-3).
Dougie Hamilton scored on a sharp angle shot early in the second period to draw the Flames even at 2-2. But that tie lasted less than a minute, as Colin Miller’s high slap shot was partially blocked by Rittich, but bounced over him and landed in the crease and Smith swept in the rebound to make it 3-2 Vegas. The Flames drew even later on a power play, as a Hamilton shot careened off Cody Eakin and Matthew Tkachuk and past Fleury to make it 3-3. But that wouldn’t last long, as David Perron drew a lot of attention from the Flames defenders… allowing Alex Tuch to receive a pass and deposit a shot over Rittich’s shoulder to make it 4-3. Shots were 12-6 Flames and chances were 7-6 Flames, but they just couldn’t translate possession into really dangerous chances.
The game swung early in the third period. Mark Giordano’s wide point shot rebounded off the boards and Sean Monahan buried the rebound. But Vegas successfully challenged the goal due to the Flames being off-sides. 90 seconds later, Luca Sbisa beat Rittich with a point shot to make it 5-3. Tomas Nosek redirected another Sbisa shot later in the period to make it 6-3. Cody Eakin beat Rittich through traffic off a faceoff win to make it 7-3. Shots were 11-4 Flames and chances were 10-5 Flames, but, y’know, score effects.
Why The Flames Lost
The Flames had some energy here and there. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. They were sloppy in the defensive zone. They weren’t particularly crisp in the offensive zone. Their goaltending wasn’t very good. They were chasing for the entire game. Vegas wasn’t amazing in this one, but they were arguably better than the Flames in virtually every area of the game.
The whole 3M Line was pretty solid, aside from Frolik’s penalty leading to a goal against.
The Turning Point
It looked like Monahan had tied the game, but after that goal got waved off the Flames gave up three unanswered goals. Imagine what could’ve happened if that goal had counted…
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
This was the seventh consecutive game where the Flames’ opponent has scored first. It was also the third consecutive game where the Flames never had a lead at any point. It took them 8:51 to get their first shot on goal.
Travis Hamonic and Alex Tuch got into a fight in the third period. It was fine.
The Drive to 96 (Points)
The Flames now have 69 points with 21 games remaining. They need 27 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 13-7-1 record to hit the 96 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.
The Flames (30-22-9) jet to Phoenix tonight. They’ll face the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow night.