58David Rittich
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Flames and Lightning go the distance

Thursday night’s game between the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning was heavily hyped prior to puck drop. It lived up to the hype, as the two clubs engaged in a tactical battle of wills for over 60 minutes. It went to the shootout, where Tampa Bay captured a tight 5-4 victory.

The Rundown

The Lightning opened the scoring off a scambly play. David Rittich made a big breakaway stop on Ondrej Palat, but the Flames couldn’t clear the zone and off a goal-mouth scramble Palat poked in the rebound to make it 1-0 Tampa.

But the Flames responded back fairly quickly, as Matthew Tkachuk sprung Sam Bennett on a partial breakaway. Louis Domingue made the initial stop, but the puck squirted through his pads and Bennett poked in his own rebound – it was trickling towards the goal line anyway, but he made sure it got there – to make it a 1-1 hockey game.

A little bit later Sean Monahan’s line generated some offensive zone time and cycled the puck a bit. Elias Lindholm chucked the puck towards the slot where a wide-open Monahan chipped it into the top corner to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.

The Flames extended their lead off a really effective grinding shift from Mikael Backlund’s line, particularly some battling below the goal line by Sam Bennett. He won a battle and found Backlund in front of the net, and he scored after a quick scramble out front to make it 3-1 for the home side.

Shots were 12-8 Flames and scoring chances were 14-5 Flames.

Tampa really pressed in the second period. The Flames couldn’t generate much on an early power play. Rittich made a big stop on a Steven Stamkos breakaway, but again the Flames couldn’t quite get control of the puck after the stop. TJ Brodie ended up tipping a Stamkos pass to Adam Erne past Rittich while trying to break up a two-on-one, and that made it a 3-2 game.

The Lightning tied things up a little bit later. The Flames couldn’t corral a loose puck and allowed Alex Killorn several whacks at it. His fourth whack went in, tying the game up at 3-3. The Flames closed out the period with three penalties, but they managed to kill them off to keep the game at a deadlock.

Shots were 14-8 Lightning and chances 13-5 Lightning in the second.

The third period was tight-checking, but led to a flurry of goals near the end of regulation. Dan Girardi made it 4-3 Lightning with just over four minutes left, as his point shot hit Garnet Hathaway’s stick and rose past Rittich. But Johnny Gaudreau jumped on an errant pass in the neutral zone and out-raced Girardi and Victor Hedman, putting a backhander through Domingue’s legs to make it 4-4.

Shots were 12-10 Flames in the third, while chances were even at 7-7.

This contest went to overtime. It was a wild back and forth period, with several good scoring chances for both teams – including a stretch where Domingue made three rapid-fire saves on the Flames attackers. Shots were 7-2 Flames in overtime, but neither side scored.

The two teams went to the shootout. The shootout went to seven rounds and the Lightning won it. Victor Hedman and J.T. Miller scored for the Lightning. Monahan scored for the Flames.

Why the Flames Got A Point

The Flames were really good in the first period and were back on their heels in the second, particularly given their puck management got quite sloppy early in that period. But they made adjustments and didn’t give Tampa a ton of good looks in the third period.

Red Warrior

Bennett was superb in this game. He was physical. He made smart plays. He was emotionally engaged. He played on the edge, but didn’t get suckered into taking any silly penalties.

Gaudreau and Rittich also had strong games, as did the entire Flames penalty-killing contingent.

The Turning Point

Gaudreau’s goal to tie the game up captured a well-deserved point for the Flames. They faced a big test against a potent Lightning club, and played well enough to at least get a point.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
Bennett 65.9 30.0 2.915
Tkachuk 60.0 25.0 1.875
Hamonic 59.6 30.0 0.850
Backlund 57.2 20.0 1.975
Hanifin 55.6 44.4 0.925
Giordano 48.3 50.0 0.225
Monahan 48.3 71.4 1.325
Gaudreau 46.9 71.4 2.100
Jankowski 46.2 28.6 0.175
Kylington 41.2 50.0 -0.300
Brodie 40.6 53.3 -0.350
Lindholm 40.0 72.7 0.390
Andersson 35.7 66.7 -0.500
Quine 27.3 42.9 -0.410
Ryan 25.0 57.2 -0.015
Neal 25.0 54.6 -0.550
Hathaway 12.5 50.0 -0.475
Lomberg 0.0 n/a -0.100
Rittich 0.200

This and That

This was a really good hockey game.

Bill Peters shuffled his lines twice in this game. The first tweak was swapping Mark Jankowski and Derek Ryan, promoting Ryan to the third line in the second period. The second tweak was more of a wholesale shuffle in the third period:

  • Gaudreau – Monahan – Bennett
  • Tkachuk – Backlund – Lindholm
  • Neal – Jankowski – Ryan

Ryan Lomberg, Alan Quine and Garnet Hathaway saw sporadic duty in the third.

Up Next

The Flames (22-11-3) practice tomorrow. They host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday afternoon in their last game prior to the holiday break.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Tonight’s Takeaways:

    A true heavyweight tilt that lived up to all its hype.

    Flames might have lost it in the 1st when they dominated but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow as a 4th goal might have shorted out the Lightning.

    Like all Flame fans I was terribly disappointed when the Stanley Cup dream ended one win short in 03-04, but I couldn’t get a true hate on for the Lightning then or since. First, no real rivalry before or since the final between these geographically separated teams. Second, in their cup year, the Lightning had an even lower payroll than the Flames with both clubs spending half on the hired help than what the salary-leading Wings were paying. Talk about value for money. The frugal Lightning that year finished with just 3 fewer points in the overall standings than the money-mad Motowners. Third, impossible to hate the Lightning during the years it was being led by the venerable visionary Stevie Yzerman. Finally, the Lightning continue to be ahead of the curve when it comes to reshaping and redefining the new NHL. They are an organization to be emulated, not despised.

    If Peters wants to keep Valimaki in Calgary when he recovers, he might also consider keeping Kylington here as well and playing him as a forward. The man sure has some wheels and stickhandles sweetly.

    Was this Sam Bennett’s best game of the year?

    Mick’s spirit was certainly in the building tonight.

    Fantastic PK by the Flames.

    Not a fan of national anthems being played at sporting events, but if they are going to be played, do them right. Canyon just rips through them as if he is on the clock and the musical accompaniment sounds like it is state of the art 1970s technology. The Young Canadians at the Stampede always belt out a damn fine version of O’ Canada. Why not use it?

    Some curious choices by Peters in the shootout. Don’t know why Giordano or Backlund didn’t get a go.

    Does the headline read “Bolts Tighten Flames” or “Bolts Loosen Flames?” No matter, I am eagerly awaiting for the rematch and I am already salivating at the possibility of these teams playing a best of 7 in June.

  • LannyMac

    Just take a second out to think about how painful it’s going to be to watch that 5.75 piece of absolute trash for 4 1/2 more seasons. Possibly 374 regular season games. Thank god the majority of the players on this team seem to give an S so it’s easier to ignore his garbage.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Don’t worry, if Neal truly is a bust as a Flame, the upcoming lockout will present Tre and the other owners with some “Get out of jail” cards in the form of buyouts that do not count against the cap. We saw that in the last lockout, and was it ever popular, so you know it’s coming back.

      • slapshot444

        Just posted on the Quips and quotes
        Just came from the dome, totally great game, if you going to lose it’s to the lightning, a top team for sure, talk about no mistakes allowed. Re Neal,,
        Sat down low, we focused on Neal on a couple of shifts. its hard to understand how bad he is. No other way to describe it but its like he’s a faker and doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. Rarely in a good position, doesn’t fight for the puck on the boards,,,,checking… what’s that?? Then he goes out for the shootout!!! Ok, so like no one got the puck up fo the shootout but WTF before Bennet, before Quine, before any other player!! F…… I would have Smitty out there before Neal.. What’s a coach to do…press box for one,, waive him and send to Stockton to learn how to play Flames hockey for two,, bite the bullet and trade at the deadline for three. 2X worst than Brower..
        Nigel, I am so happy to hear that the lockout might give us an out.

    • Torchy

      If Neal goes on some sort of scoring streak do you promise to write a half dozen comments in every post praising him, or will you just move on to the next scapegoat?

  • TheDallyLama

    Gotta give props to BSD. someone that didn’t watch the game might see he let in 4, but would be way off. Our guy was lights out. Big save Dave you are a revelation pal. ???

  • Buffoon dud Hrudey.

    That was an amazing fun game. Lots of back and forth, hits, and goals. The Flames just took the #1 team in the league deep into a shoot out and all people on here can do is biatch about Neal. Such an entertaining game, such bitter fans.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      The funniest thing about the whole Neal thing is the main reason he isn’t doing great is because of the amazing play of players like Elias Lindholm, Matthew Tkachuk, etc have made him kind of obsoletes I far.

      Sam Bennett also played his best game of the year tonight. Hope he can build on it.

  • Flamesforever

    Stop with the negative Neal posts. Can’t you guys be happy? We have an amazing team. I said earlier tonight no matter the outcome of the game we would learn a great deal about our hockey club tonight. I think we learned that we are a legit threat in the western conference, what a game. GFG ?

      • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

        This is the best Flames team I have seen since the late 80s. 2004 was fun, but it was really just Iggy & Kipper going to ridiculous mode (Jordan Leopold also doesn’t get enough credit for that season).

    • The Greaser

      You are right. We have an awesome team. They are fun to watch. That makes it all that more painful to watch the #4 guy in salary play with the intensity of a Starbucks barista. He’s sucking up oxygen on the bench best served to somebody who gives a hoot. My apologies to Starbucks.

  • calgaryfan

    Fun game to watch, lots of chances for both teams. Goalies played great! Lightning are a good team, 4 solid lines, the first 2 very dangerous. Flames played well, great on the penalty kill. The Flames should learn from this game and will be better going forward.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Flames second line of Backlund, Bennett and Tkachuk were pretty terrific. Maybe the Flames have finally found a solid second line that can generate offense.

  • imthedude63

    That was a great hockey game. Johnny cranked things up in the third period and OT. BSD was awesome. The Flames are a top team.

    As for Neal he joins a long list of players who have been judged juryed and executed by fickle fans (last year Monohan, Brodie, Harmonic, Backlund). Neal will come around…

    Jankowski keeps on getting better and I like the way they are bringing him along slowly. The coaches know what they are doing which Could not be said for GG.

    Looking forward to the rest of the year

  • FlamesFanOtherCity

    Some of the posters here sound like Oiler fans crapping on the team. Was Neal the reason we lost the game? That was scored off a Hathaway deflection. Nobody trashing Brodie for deflecting it, a la Russell, into his own net? How about the empty net that he tried to pass the puck into. Mistakes happen, so we must have to blame the UFA signing I guess.

    The “Best Team in the NHL” and we lose to the Bettman Skills Competition. A show only equalled by the All Star shootout challenge. Give me another 5 minutes of OT any say. Such crap to watch.

  • Off the wall

    Strong winds have knocked out power to 203 areas of Southern Vancouver Island. That’s just the south. More are in Central and North Vancouver Island, stretching over to the Mainland. Yikes!

    I didn’t get to watch this game, due to no power for any of my devices. Phone is barely at minimal power and I had to go out to the truck just to charge it enough, so I could read the comments.

    My family and I are huddled up and (sleeping, well they are) next to our fireplace. Thank goodness we have one. It’s chilly. The temperature keeps dropping in the house a degree every hour.

    Even though it’s crappy to have no power, it’s nice to watch my family all huddled up and make the best of the situation. Dogs are loving it.

    I’m no Nostradamus, however I’d say we should be grateful for the things that we love, cuz you never know how fast things can change.

    We all love our Flames, that’s why we come here. It doesn’t seem to me that our Flames had a Power Outage. When you go 7 deep into OT shooters, it sounds like I probably missed the best game ever!

    Too bad, however it brings sheer joy to my heart watching my family sleeping peacefully in front of our fireplace and that we spent some quality time around candlelight.

    Moments like these put everything into perspective for me.

    Flames are great, especially when it’s your only source of warmth ?

    • everton fc

      One of the better posts I’ve read in all my years here. Especially during this time of the year. I feel the same, about my family.

      As for our Flames… Love ’em. But I do think Neal was a bad signing. Even BT himself talked about how Neal needs guys w/”pace” around him, to do his thing. Pace. This is what Neal seems to lack, so far. If they can find a team willing to take this guy, I’d make that move now. We have nothing to lose, except his cap hit. He (and the other signing, Czarnik) have provided a combined poor offencive showing, and are holding other guys back – say, a guy like Quine, or even Lazar. Lazar might give us more offence, then Neal. He’d certainly give us more pace.

    • Albertabeef

      I had power and internet here in downtown and listened to the game. It was a fun listen. It was a rough storm. Don’t think we got it as bad as Washington. Hope you and your family stay safe.

  • Flaymin Frank

    This was a great game and very entertaining to watch. It’s a glimpse of how far the team can go into the playoffs. As for #18 – you can put multi layers of lipstick on a pig. But it’s still a pig.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      To be fair, Neal has done nothing to endear himself to Flames fans during his short time here and the hate for him seems to know no age limit or hair coverage. The key to my last sentence was “his short time here.” I too am annoyed with those who have already written Neal off as a bust because we are not even at the midpoint of the season. There’s lots of hockey to play this season and this is just the first year of his five year deal. The bashing of Neal is not at all mystifying because he has been bad. What is mystifying is how so many have already declared the Neal signing a bust. That’s premature just as it is to say the Flames won the trade with Carolina. Neal has lots of time this season to turn it around, and I for one will not say he won’t do it. Neal has earned way too much respect in this league to be dismissed as a bust after just 30+ games.

    • Luter 1

      It’s just extremely painful to watch a guy who’s skating will drag down any top 6 you play him with. Unfortunately his supposed skill set doesn’t match well with bottom 6 so he’s not a fit anywhere. And he is proving it every game including the shootout that he looks washed up.

    • Derzie

      I’m as critical as it gets and last night’s game was stellar. So, so proud of the team. Best Flames unit I’ve seen. As for Neal, if you watched the game last night you saw two teams that are what the new NHL is: breakneck speed, hustle & skill. Neal has shown when he was younger that he can play with fast players. Right now he just looks too old for this team. Time always wins. He may go on a streak, he may not. Maybe he suits playoff hockey. Who knows. Finding something to complain about is as easy as falling off a rock. If an old ineffective Neal is our worst problem, we’re in the promised land.