101Mark Giordano
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Flames edge Avalanche in wild one

The Calgary Flames returned home from a successful road trip where they played some stingy, low-scoring hockey. They played similarly on Thursday night and beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-5 in a wild, high-scoring game.

The Rundown

Neither team scored in the opening frame, but aside from a few good chances from the Avalanche top line it was arguably the Flames’ best period of the season. They occasionally dominated at five-on-five, including two very long offensive zone sequences for the fourth line – one was long enough they were able to switch up both defensemen without the puck leaving the zone. Shots were 13-4 Flames and scoring chances were 8-5 Flames.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The second frame did not go well for the Flames. On an early power play Matthew Tkachuk bobbled the puck, leading to a two-on-two rush the other way. Vladislav Kamenev decided to shoot and his shot found its way through Mike Smith to make it 1-0 Avalanche. The Avalanche struck again 1:50 later, as Sheldon Dries tipped a Tyson Barrie shot from the point. The tip ricocheted off Smith, off Rasmus Andersson’s skate and into the net to make it 2-0.

The Flames answered back, though, as a nice effort by Mark Giordano to pinch and push the puck below the goal line allowed Matthew Tkachuk to grab the puck and feed Mikael Backlund with a pass from behind the net to make it 2-1.

But Colorado struck two more times before the end of the period. Ian Cole flipped the puck into the Flames zone (over Travis Hamonic’s head) and Dries beat Hamonic to the puck. Noah Hanifin cheated in from the slot to support Hamonic, and that allowed Dries to find Colin Wilson sneaking into the slot for a tap-in into a wide-open net to make it 3-1. A neutral zone turnover late in the period led to a Carl Soderberg shot squirting through Smith’s pads to make it 4-1 Avalanche.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Shots were 13-11 Flames and chances 10-6 Flames in the second period.

The Flames opened the third period with some urgency on their power play and were rewarded. An Elias Lindholm point shot – with Tkachuk parked in front of Varlamov – found its way in to cut things to a 4-2 deficit.

Sean Monahan won a faceoff for the fourth line and then headed to the net. He tipped Noah Hanifin’s shot and it squeaked through Varlamov to make it a 4-3 hockey game.

Juuso Valimaki stepped into Matt Calvert to dislodge the puck, which was grabbed by Johnny Gaudreau and fed to James Neal for a one-timer from the slot to make it a tied game at 4-4.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Flames took the lead as Giordano found himself alone in the Avalanche zone, called for the puck and beat Varlamov with a wrister to make it 5-4 Flames.

The home side extended their lead to 6-4 after Tkachuk fed Michael Frolik on a two-on-one rush to make it 6-4.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The Avalanche answered back on a late power play (with the goalie pulled), with Gabriel Landeskog jamming in a loose puck during a goalmouth scramble to make it 6-5. But that was as close as the Avalanche got and the Flames held on for the win. Shots were 12-11 Avalanche, but scoring chances were 12-5 Flames.

Why the Flames Won

The team got themselves into trouble, and the team got themselves out of it.

They made mistakes on the first four goals and they didn’t get the goaltending to bail them out of those mistakes. But they kept playing their game, kept pressing, and eventually the dam burst in the third period.

Red Warrior

Several Flames had good games, but let’s go with the captain. Giordano was superb in the game, especially in the third period when the team began to press. He ended the night with four points.

The Turning Point

Let’s go with the Neal goal. The game was tilting towards the Flames at that point, but Valimaki’s hit was seemingly the answer to Ian Cole’s hit (see below), except clean, and it led to a huge goal. It’s rare to see rookies with the situational awareness to know when to pinch, but Valimaki played it perfectly and it swung the game.

The Numbers

(Percentage stats are 5-on-5, data via Corsica.Hockey)

Player Corsi
Jankowski 78.6 0.0 0.575
Backlund 77.3 54.6 2.580
Hanifin 75.8 25.0 1.650
Bennett 75.0 75.0 0.510
Tkachuk 73.7 50.0 3.100
Hathaway 73.3 n/a 0.325
Neal 71.4 0.0 1.325
Frolik 71.4 54.6 1.875
Hamonic 69.7 40.0 0.875
Ryan 68.0 50.0 1.125
Dube 68.0 40.0 0.450
Giordano 67.7 53.9 4.475
Brodie 62.9 50.0 1.300
Andersson 56.5 62.5 0.150
Monahan 53.3 71.4 1.770
Gaudreau 51.4 57.1 1.100
Lindholm 50.0 45.5 1.105
Valimaki 45.5 62.5 0.575
Smith -1.650

This and That

This is the Flames’ first win in their “regular” red home sweaters in four tries. Their next retro sweater game is Nov. 16 against the New York Rangers.

After a big hit on Mark Jankowski after the 4-1 goal, Sam Bennett jumped in and fought Ian Cole. Cole got tossed, Bennett got the instigator and Jankowski briefly left the game. He was on the bench but didn’t hit the ice in the third period, while Bennett came back and played one third period shift after serving his penalties.

The Flames held Colorado to just eight high-danger scoring chances – out-chancing them 19-8 in the high-danger areas. It’s the fourth consecutive game they’ve held their opponents to fewer than 10 high-danger chances (per Natural Stat Trick); they’re 3-0-1 in that span.

Up Next

The Flames (8-5-1) practice tomorrow, then are back in action in Hockey Night in Canada’s late Saturday game when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.

    • Greg

      Not often a goalie gives up 5 goals, has an .808 SV%, and still comes away with the win. At least 2 of those goals are pucks he should have had.

      Until, and unless, Smith’s SV% starts moving waaaay up or Rittich’s starts trending back down, they need to start giving Rittich at least half the starts.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        I honestly think Smith blundered on all of those goals, or at least 4 of them. Somethings not right with him. He is just making too many mistakes, even when he makes the saves.

        • Rudy27

          To me the first goal was the worst. He seemed to totally lose his net. It looks like a trend. Smith appears to always cheat toward the non-puck carrier on a two on one. He’s let in at least 4 this season doing that.

        • SGRietzey

          Accurate. Goals 1, 3, and 4 for sure I’d fault Smith. Goal 2 was tough as a deflection, and goal 5 I think he actually made a few saves in that scramble before it got pushed in.

          That said, goals 1 & 4 were just bad. Goal 3 was a tough play with Dries beating Hamonic and nobody picking up Wilson, but Smith took himself out of the play by being down on his post early. Probably not a shot he stops even if he’s properly positioned, but he never gave himself the chance to be in position to make a save to begin with. Have to play the shooter but need to anticipate that pass. Unfortunately, misreading the play and suspect reactions/positioning seem to be a pretty common occurrence for Smith at the moment.

          • Rudy27

            I was surprised the refs counted the 5th goal. His pad was pushed back by the Colorado player’s stick opening up the puck and preventing Smith from making the save on the next player.

  • smatic10

    Bennett is showing exactly why you don’t give up on a 4th overall pick that has skill and toughness. I’ve been so impressed with his play all season. He’s been so much more consistent. If he keeps up his play, I can definitely see him having a great mid-season and going on to burst through his career highs.

    But anyways in this game, it’s nice to see this passion and emotion. He came in and probably through 100 punches on Cole with no hesitation. Glad to see Janko is ok, weirdly was happy to see him slam the glass on his way out. Not only the hit but he’s probably frustrated with how his season is going so far. Good to see him express himself. Way more passion from this team, last year under Gully, it seemed like no one cared about anything.

    Also Gio is 35. Dude is a fitness tank.

  • Korcan

    Smith is giving me ulcers. Another great character comeback, but this game should never have been close. Calgary was completely dominant, but for their goaltending. Nice goal by Neal, hopefully that gets him going. Great fight by Benny — the turning point IMO.

  • Mickey O'Reaves

    Sam Bennett saw a perceived injustice, made a nice tight turn to get to his man, and came out firing. He wouldn’t have cared if it was Big Buff with the hit, he had fire in his eyes.

    The kid is as tough as a coffin nail…and I especially loved the, “F-You” from Bennett to Cole at the end of the tilt as well.

    • Atomic Clown

      Bennett fights like a man with nothing to lose. It does not matter what is in his way when that fire lights up in his eyes; he’s throwing down the haymakers

      • Mickey O'Reaves

        Yep, a fired up Sam Bennett is a force that you don’t really want to be in the way of when it blasts off.
        He’s like a solar flare spewing off hot gases into space.
        Nature hates a vacuum and Bennett is there to fill it. I’ll take young Sam in my foxhole every day of the week.

  • Atomic Clown

    Valimaki is playing as if he’s been in the league for a few years. That was a fantastic pinch; great timing, great positioning, keeping it clean. Bennett is taking zero crap this year. If he’s on the ice and he sees something he doesn’t like, he’s throwing haymakers. Lindholm alone is making the trade worthwhile. Smith – in the name of everything sacred and holy, that was awful

  • Oil Spilly

    I like it I like it l like it. Did I not say before the season began that this was the season that Alberta’s teams take off and send the California teams down the standings? Forget those California teams. It’s time for Calgary and Edmonton to meet up in the playoffs here we go!!!!


  • The Doctor

    Really glad to see Neal playing with some speed and passion. And Giordano is a beast! Such a great all around player and arguably one of the smartest players in the game. Deserves to be in the Norris conversation.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      Well, since he’s essentially a PPG player right now, which I don’t think will change much (career year in points?), if the flames can get better defense overall (and start Ritty more), Gio will definitely be in the Norris convo. Especially with plays like he made in this game, and that sweet play at the end of last game.

      He’s incredible, and a wonder to watch. He is the living embodiment of the value and necessity of hard work.

    • Rudy27

      Gio reminds me of the old days in Winnipeg with Randy Carlyle. Hi hockey IQ with excellent timing and gap control. Only won one Norris trophy (because he was playing in the East at the time), but should have had several. As with Gio, not playing in a big media center plays against you when it comes to the voting.

  • Greg

    “The team got themselves into trouble”

    They were doubling the Avs on shots but down 3 goals, with 2 real bad softies. That was not a case of the team getting themselves in trouble. We need to stop sugar coating and tip toeing around it… Smith has been bad and he got the team in trouble.