61Flames celebrate
Photo Credit: David Berding/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Rittich shines as Flames edge Wild in matinee

Games between the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild are often quiet, tight-checking affairs. The two teams did battle in a low-scoring, low-event game on Saturday afternoon in St. Paul. After a sleepy start, the Flames made some adjustments and came away with a big 2-1 victory.

The Rundown

The Flames were back on their heels for much of the first two periods of this game, playing a very reactive style – and occasionally whiffing on passes in the neutral zone. But they opened the scoring in an unusual manner.

With Travis Hamonic in the box the Flames had to kill of his penalty. The Flames blocked a Minnesota shot and Mark Jankowski and Mark Giordano were sprung on a two-on-two rush. Jankowski drew the two Wild defenders over to him, then fed the puck to Giordano. Giordano shelved the puck over top of Devan Dubnyk – it actually got stuck behind the camera – to give the Flames a 1-0 edge.

Shots were 12-6 Wild and scoring chances 6-4 Wild in the first period.

The visitors got a huge opportunity to take a strangehold on this game early in the second, as a penalty at the end of the first and another early in the second (both to the Wild) gave them a lengthy stretch of power play time. But they couldn’t bury anything and Jordan Greenway tied the game seconds after the Wild finished their penalty kill, putting a shot top-corner just over Rittich’s shoulder. That made it 1-1.

Shots were 14-9 Flames in the second, but chances were 7-4 Wild.

The Flames made some adjustments in the third period, shuffling some lines, shortening their bench, and starting to defend intelligently. As a result, they generated more scoring chances and were able to capitalize.

After Matthew Tkachuk broke up a Minnesota rush, TJ Brodie jumped into the rush and created some chaos. In the confusion James Neal attempted to center the puck, but it glanced off a Wild defender and went right to Tkachuk in the slot. Tkachuk’s shot found its way into the net to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.

A bench minor to the Flames for delay of game after an icing gave Minnesota a late push, but the Flames killed off the six-on-four advantage and held on for the victory.

Shots were 14-6 Wild in the third, but chances were 8-4 Flames.

Why the Flames Won

This was the type of game the Flames would’ve lost a season or two ago. They really weren’t feeling it for the first two periods, at least based on how they defended and managed the puck. But they were in a position where they could get two points if they won the third period. They made adjustments and with two points on the table, they took ’em. While a 60 minute effort would’ve been preferable, being able to pull wins out like these is the sign of a mature hockey club.

The key here: the Flames’ special teams were better than Minnesota’s, as was their goaltending.

Red Warrior

Rittich. In a sleepy, scrambly game, Rittich was rock-solid and didn’t give the Wild many big rebounds or daylight.

The Turning Point

Tkachuk’s goal was the right goal at the right time. But honorable mention to the late penalty kill, as the Flames really frustrated Minnesota there when they had an opportunity to draw even.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
Tkachuk 63.0 70.0 1.795
Quine 60.0 75.0 0.220
Bennett 60.0 30.0 0.425
Lindholm 54.2 78.6 0.625
Andersson 53.9 75.0 0.175
Prout 50.0 25.0 0.250
Kylington 50.0 50.0 -0.150
Hanifin 48.3 61.5 -0.075
Neal 48.2 61.5 0.800
Hamonic 48.2 53.9 -0.225
Giordano 46.7 55.6 1.175
Brodie 45.2 55.6 0.675
Gaudreau 44.8 50.0 0.350
Monahan 44.8 52.9 0.455
Mangiapane 33.3 50.0 -0.500
Jankowski 31.6 45.5 0.285
Hathaway 30.0 50.0 -0.210
Ryan 20.0 40.0 -0.310
Rittich 2.650

This and That

There were three first period fights: Matthew Tkachuk vs. Matt Dumba, Mark Giordano vs. Matt Hendricks, and Sam Bennett vs. Ryan Suter. None were classics, and Dumba may have hurt his hand on Tkachuk’s helmet during their tilt.

Bill Peters’ Third Period Line Shuffle (TM):

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Bennett
  • Tkachuk – Lindholm – Neal
  • Jankowski – Quine – Hathaway
  • Benched (mostly): Ryan, Mangiapane, Prout

This was the Flames’ first game since January 2, 2015 without a Mike dressed.

Up Next

The Flames (21-10-2) immediately head to St. Louis. They face the Blues tomorrow in another early game.