The Calgary Flames lost to Dallas on Tuesday night. It happens, as their goaltender was really good. The Flames lost to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night in Denver by a 5-2 score. The visitors were good enough for the first half of the game, but then some old habits crept in – shaky goaltending, inopportune penalties, and a general loss of composure in the latter parts of the game.
As a result, the Flames let two crucial points slip through their fingers in the very tight Western Conference playoff race.
The Flames weren’t amazing in the first, but they defended reasonably well despite not having the puck a ton. They managed to open the scoring with Tanner Glass in the penalty box. Mikael Backlund caught Ty Barrie off-guard, stole the puck and beat Semyon Varlamov on a breakaway to make it 1-0.
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Shots were 11-6 Avalanche and scoring chances were 6-5 Avalanche.
The visitors extended their lead to 2-0 off a nice passing sequence between Backlund, Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik, ending with #67 beating Varlamov at close range.
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— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) March 1, 2018
But then things fell apart. With Tkachuk in the box, Nathan MacKinnon made it 2-1 with a really nice wrist shot that beat David Rittich short-side. 68 seconds later, Nikita Zadorov wandered into the Flames zone unobstructed and beat Rittich glove-wide with a wrister to make it 2-2. The Flames had a brief power play later in the period, but Dougie Hamilton hauled down an Avalanche attacker attempting a short-handed shot just 16 seconds into the man advantage. On the ensuing four-on-four sequence Mikko Rantanen, MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie combined on a nice passing sequence that was finished by Barrie depositing the puck into a completely open net to make it 3-2. Finally, Colorado made it 4-2 as a Carl Soderberg pass eluded Travis Hamonic’s coverage and landed on Matt Nieto’s stick for a tap-in. Shots were 11-14 Avalanche, but scoring chances were 8-8.
The Flames had many shots and chances in the third, but could not bury any. Johnny Gaudreau got a stick in the face midway through the period and was called for embellishment – earlier in the game he caught Sam Bennett’s skate to his neck and was understandably jumpy about things hitting him around that area – and then he received a 10-minute misconduct for arguing the call.
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Gaudreau was effectively tossed from the game, and that was that. Duncan Siemens added an empty-netter to make it 5-2 and ice things. Shots were 13-4 Flames and chances were 7-2 Flames, but the result of this one never seemed in doubt.
Why The Flames Lost
There were a few reasons. First, their goaltending wasn’t quite up to snuff. Jon Gillies was decent enough last night, but Rittich had a couple lapses in the second period (on the MacKinnon and Zadorov goals) and it sapped the Flames of a lot of momentum. But the Flames took a ton of penalties, especially when the game was close, and the team collectively seemed to completely lose composure. For the second game in a row the team got additional penalties for arguing calls with the officials rather than focusing on the opposition.
Whether it’s the team’s leadership or their coaches, they need to stop getting in their own way.
Backlund had two points, so let’s go with him. But the entire 3M line was solid once again. (As usual.)
The Turning Point
The game was 2-2 and the Flames had a power play. (Yay!) Then Hamilton took a minor 16 seconds in to negate that power play. (Boo!) Then Colorado scored to go up 3-2, giving them a lead they would never relinquish. (Louder boo!)
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
Gaudreau entered the game with 12 penalty minutes this season. He took 12 penalty minutes in the third period alone.
In what is becoming an ominous trend, Calgary loses despite limiting high end chances.
— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) March 1, 2018
The Drive to 96 (Points)
The Flames now have 73 points with 17 games remaining. They need 23 points over their remaining schedule – the equivalent of a 11-5-1 record to hit the 96 point mark that’ll probably be the playoff cut-off.
The Flames (32-24-9) fly home tonight. They’re off tomorrow, then host the New York Rangers on Friday night at the Saddledome.