Things haven’t been going great for the Calgary Flames lately. Entering tonight’s date with the Columbus Blue Jackets, they had some trouble scoring goals and some trouble keeping pucks out of their own net. That trend continued on Thursday night at the Saddledome. A familiar combination of porous defensive play and a snake-bit offense contributed to their seventh consecutive loss, this one a 5-1 setback at the hands of the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets struck first in the opening frame. After an icing, Mark Jankowski lost a faceoff and the whole team basically froze for five seconds wondering what to do. That allowed Matt Calvert to corral the puck and find Markus Hannikainen out front for a quick tap-in goal to make it 1-0. Midway through the period they struck again, as a lapse in defensive coverage left Pierre-Luc Dubois all by his lonesome with a clear lane to the net. Artemi Panarin found him with a beautiful cross-zone pass and Dubois one-timed it past Gillies to make it 2-0. Shots were 14-13 Flames and chances were 18-12 Flames.
Four minutes into the second period the Jackets struck again. Panarin poked a puck out from under the red line and Cam Atkinson delivered a very slick tap-pass to move the puck into the slot for a wide-open Dubois for another one-timer goal and a 3-0 lead. The Flames pressed but couldn’t bury anything. Shots were 13-5 Flames and chances were 9-3 Flames.
The visitors added two more in the third period. Markus Nutivaara scored on an odd-man rush and Dubois completed his hat trick on a similarly out-manned play to make it 5-0. Chris Stewart batted in a rebound with 21.4 seconds remaining to spoil Sergei Bobrovsky’s shutout bid, but that was all she wrote. Shots were 11-10 Flames and chances were 13-4 Flames.
Why The Flames Lost
The Flames were pretty flat early and really rough with their defensive zone coverage, which gave the Jackets a few high-quality looks. Once the Flames got down a couple they reverted to some old habits: occasionally cheating to try to get some offense going… which only served to give the Jackets more odd-man rushes and high-quality looks.
Other than that, it was the usual recipe for the locals: lots of zone time and scoring chances, but not enough grade-A looks or goals.
Bless his heart, Sam Bennett sure is trying his best to get things going. He led the team with five shots and stayed out of the penalty box.
The Turning Point
The second goal for Columbus ended up being the game-winner, but it was just a fantastic lapse in judgement by everyone on the ice in red. You really shouldn’t leave a player like Dubois that wide-open in the offensive zone. It never ends well.
(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.hockey)
This and That
Matt Stajan was presented with a silver stick to commemorate his 1,000th NHL game. Then, his son Elliot was presented with a silver mini-stick in a pretty cool moment.
Travis Hamonic left the game after the first period with an upper-body injury. He collided awkwardly with Boone Jenner in the first period but stayed on the bench until the end of the frame. The Flames played the rest of the game with five defenders. Following the game, head coach Glen Gulutzan noted that Hamonic “is going to be out for a bit.”
#Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan on Thursday's loss: "We were not ready to play in the first 10 (minutes). We had key guys not ready to play — not all our guys, but we had four or five not ready to play."
— Wes Gilbertson (@WesGilbertson) March 30, 2018
Rasmus Andersson set a new career high in ice time (18:53), while Brett Kulak cracked the 20-minute plateau for just the fourth time in his NHL career.
Chris Stewart’s goal ended the Flames’ goal-less draught at 167:36, just 15:20 shy of the all-time record from Nov. 2002.
The Flames (35-33-10) practice tomorrow, then are back in action on Saturday night as Spencer Foo makes his NHL debut against the Edmonton Oilers. That sounds fun.