80Flames hug
Photo Credit: Philip G. Pavely/USA Today Sports

Post-Game: Just how they drew it up

The Calgary Flames haven’t been at their best since the All-Star Break. They weren’t perfect on Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh, but they were closer to their usual selves. They had a productive time at even strength and held on for a 5-4 victory over the Penguins.

The Rundown

The Flames were energetic from the start and were rewarded halfway through the opening frame with a fourth line goal. Oliver Kylington’s point shot ricocheted off a Penguins’ stick, off Andrew Mangiapane’s skate and past Matt Murray to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.

But the Penguins tied things up, as Jake Guentzel got a stick on a point shot just five seconds after a Flames penalty expired to make it a 1-1 game. (Sam Bennett was in the box for a penalty related to a fight with Marcus Pettersson, which itself was related to a scary hit on Austin Czarnik.)

Shots were 13-9 Penguins in first and chances 11-9 Penguins.

The Flames went to work in the second period. 99 seconds in, Rasmus Andersson pinched to keep a puck in Calgary’s possession. A few cycling passes later Matthew Tkachuk’s shot was stopped, but the rebound went right to Michael Frolik for a tap-in that gave the Flames a 2-1 lead.

Just over a minute later, Czarnik made it 3-1 Flames with a wrist shot (off a nice feed from Derek Ryan) that handcuffed Murray on a two-on-two rush.

The Penguins got one back, as Sidney Crosby scored a dandy from a bad angle on a power play with a rising wrist shot that would’ve been tough for a brick wall to stop. That cut Calgary’s lead to 3-2.

But the Flames answered back with a couple late goals. Travis Hamonic beat Murray over the shoulder with a shot from the top of the circle that careened off a defender’s stick. That made it 4-2.

The second power play unit made it 5-2 Flames, as a dump-in was recovered and cycled. A few slick passes later – including a set-up from Ryan – and Bennett was patient and held onto the puck and slid it past a sprawling Murray to extend the lead.

Shots were 15-14 Flames, chances 14-11 Flames in the second.

The Penguins’ power play tried their darnedest to tie the game in the third period. Evgeni Malkin scored two man advantage goals:

  • He beat Mike Smith five-hole with an uncontested shot that Smith saw the entire time to make it 5-3.
  • He beat Smith five-hole off a face-off win with Patric Hornqvist completely obscuring his view of the shot to make it 5-4.

But that’s as close as the home side got and the Flames held on for the victory.

Shots were 11-7 Penguins, chances 5-5 in the final period.

Why the Flames Won

The Flames were really good at even strength. They avoided making bad decisions with the puck, for the most part, and they got contributions from basically every line at even strength aside from their top line. They had three good lines and three good pairings, and they managed to keep momentum on their side for much of the game.

The game was close because they had no answer for the Penguins power play – three Pittsburgh goals were a man up, and their other goal was five seconds after a PP expired – but the Flames were able to spot themselves four even strength goals. When you’re that much better than the other team five-on-five, you tend to win.

Red Warrior

Ryan had three assists, setting up Calgary’s first, third and fifth goals. He’s been very effective lately and it’s made the bottom six pretty dangerous.

The Turning Point

Bennett’s PP goal late in the second period gave the Flames a 5-2 lead. It ended up standing as the game-winner, and came in the wake of a few games where their special teams haven’t given the Flames quite enough to win. This afternoon, their special teams managed to do that.

The Numbers

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

Player Corsi
For%
OZone
Start%
Game
Score
Mangiapane 66.7 50.0 1.350
Ryan 61.1 33.3 2.665
Andersson 61.1 60.0 1.200
Frolik 58.8 55.6 1.615
Czarnik 58.3 0.0 1.150
Backlund 58.1 55.6 1.155
Hathaway 55.6 33.3 0.625
Tkachuk 51.4 45.5 1.200
Brodie 50.0 36.4 0.250
Kylington 47.7 50.0 1.075
Giordano 45.7 41.7 0.050
Jankowski 45.5 0.0 -0.090
Hamonic 43.5 42.9 0.625
Hanifin 42.5 42.9 0.050
Gaudreau 33.3 42.9 -0.500
Lindholm 32.3 50.0 0.325
Monahan 31.6 42.9 0.065
Bennett 25.0 0.0 0.275
Smith 0.400
Rittich

This and That

The Flames are now 20-1-0 when leading after two periods and a combined 28-1-4 when leading or tied after two periods.

Up Next

The Flames (35-16-7) fly home later today. They host the Arizona Coyotes in an afternoon game on Family Day Monday.

      • Brian McGrattan's Salute

        I would hope Czarnik continues to play. That would be something else indeed if they sat him after that game. He was going to the corners, playing hard, shot a lot, and scored.

        He’s a small guy, so he’s not entirely effective in the corners, but to me he’s doing everything right to stay in the lineup while Neal is gone.

  • Speed Kills

    Best effort I’ve seen these guys put together since the Carolina game. Take the Two points, keep the work effort up and move on to the next~! Just Please don’t take Arizona for granted next game. Gratz on the Win~!

  • freethe flames

    Hathaway with 8 hits and that line was effective all game. Czarnik in for Neal and the 3rd line has more speed; heck he even had a hit. This was a solid team win. Happy to see hard work pay off. 1st place in the west after a slow week. 4/8 points on a road trip were they looked like crap. Happy with the results. Lots of work to be done.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Today’s Takeaways

    Tuned in late. What was the condition of the anthems?

    Didn’t think Bennett taking apart Pettersson was a bright move because you earn no honour badge for fighting a Swede unless the Swede is Bobby Nystrom or Kjell Samuelsson. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the toughest hockey players I have seen were Swedes—Bjore Salming and Peter Forsberg immediately come to mind—but with apologies to Ingemar Johansson, Swedes are not especially skilled in the sweet science.

    Bennett did earn a badge—two of them—for not retaliating when that Pen popped him and was promptly penalized for the punch and for the patience he presented when he potted the puck on the power play.

    Can a power play unit featuring Crosby, Malkin and Kessel ever overpass? I would have said yes, but that second Pens’ PP goal would have proved me a know-nothing.

    Phil Kessel ironman? That’s a tough image to buy, but facts are facts. Just don’t expect Timex to sign up Phil anytime soon to be the face and absolutely not the body of its Ironman timepieces.

    When Smith sucks, we decry he’s past it. When Rittich sucks, we decry he can’t handle pressure. What do we decry when two-time Stanley Cup winner Matty Murray sucks? Today it might have been battle fatigue as Murray was peppered by the Flyers and Oilers earlier in the week and didn’t look sharp at all today.

    Did anybody else hear Cassie call Czarnik “Arseton Czarnik” in the 3rd?

    Was a 3-goal lead as ever as shaky and wobbly as the one the Flames held starting the 3rd? Flames had a couple of very good chances early in the 3rd to go up by 4 but then the penalty and PP goal. After that the Flames played into the Pens’ strength by trying to run and gun with them. Never a smart move, particularly when the Flames’ top line was invisible yet again.

    Although the Pens are far from a lock to make the playoffs, if they do make the show, they are going to be one tough out. As a betting man, the Pens not a club I bet against in the playoffs.

    Fun fact: In my first novel, Teddy Blugger (same pronunciation as the Pens’ Blueger) was the name of a small-time gangster in the big city. He ate lead on page 63 and was only mentioned again on page 239 when the protagonist, Cal Ringley, speculated correctly that the Blugger murder was linked to the murders of Sharon Fitch; Doc “Sneezy” White and the Barnett brothers, Keith, Gerald and Mavis.

    Four out of eight points on this roadie and still in first place. The club has taken some full-body blows of late but hasn’t gone down and is still counter punching. Let’s hope they regain their firm footing and take the offensive during this brief homestand. I am quite looking forward to the tilt against the Isles and might even journey to the Dome to be an eyewitness to what I expect will be a very good one.

  • Gus Fring

    We barely hung on to squeak this one out! I think we still need to get bigger! To many guys getting pushed off the puck way to easy. I think we need another veteran offensive leader on this team. I wonder what it would take to get Getzlaf from the ducks? If they are rebuilding I think he would be a good fit for us. He is big tough as nails and has a ton of playoff grit and experience. He has 2 more years left on his contract rumour was Murray would eat some salary on a deal. He is also a playmaker at center which we lack! Thoughts?

  • freethe flames

    I wanted to comment on Kylington and Andersson. Kylington has great instincts and with his speed and quickness he is going to have a good long career; it has been mentioned here that we should trade- the return would need to awesome.
    Andersson also has a tremendous hockey IQ and is tougher than given credit for. I just wish he would shoot the puck more.

    • Alberta Ice

      These two players fit in right away. Great draft picks now paying off. I wonder how Valiamaki is doing in his rehab? He was right up there too before his injury. And I’m loving Gio’s example of how to be a warrior out there on the ice for these young guys to learn from.

    • Brian McGrattan's Salute

      I think Andersson is shooting it more now than he was. There is definitely a very encouraging progression there, not to mention he has pretty much recussitsted that PP2 with his puck moving ability.

      The goals and assists will come!

    • Flaymin Frank

      These two are moving up the depth chart. Could easily be our 2nd pairing IMHO. Both were instrumental in our first two goals. They are very quick on their feet and seldom have Brody’esque brain cramps. Making some other d-men show up on the Trade Radar.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      I agree, as long as Rasis not caught flat footed and Kjillington does not play too cute the are really effective. Janko got flattened on the 4th goal by Malkin who then had tons of room to blast a shot for a goal. That should have pissed him off but he just blew it off…I would have liked to see him run someone on his next shift.

  • Alberta Ice

    Great team win. My only concern is with Johnny. He is not playing well since the All Star break. Is he in defensive mode because of all the abuse he’s been getting? Passes have been sloppy. Lost the puck two times coming in on the last power play. Not shooting at the net? The good news is that Johnny doesn’t even have to have his best game for this team to win. That 4th line looked really good today. I am liking Mangiapane’s better play each and every game. And Ryan just continues to amaze me. And Bennett quietly goes about his play. And on and on I could heap praise to many players today. Great win and hopefully raises us to a higher level of hunger. KIGF.

    • Albertabeef

      I think he misses home sweet Dome. He just hasn’t been feeling it since the break. He looks and sounds frustrated. Hopefully a three game home stand will refresh him.

      • Luter 1

        He’s been getting the crap knocked out of him, we need to find a way to protect him much better. Was hoping we could get a bigger lead so someone could also put McCann in his place for that cheap shot crosscheck on our captain, that’s all we need Gio with cracked ribs.

        • Jumping Jack Flash

          So Ras has to defend Gio and Johnny…what is wrong with that picture. Monny has got to at least get in the middle of Hornquists attempt at cross checking Johnny. Ras looks like he knows how to throw them if he doesn’t lose his balance.

          • Albertabeef

            @calgaryfan not everyone shows emotion with violence. When guys like Mony try to play heavy they tend to get injured and have their careers shortened. It’s not part of their muscle memory conditioning and is recklessly irresponsible to ask of these type of players. Checking is something you need years to learn to do properly as well as fighting. I don’t want Mony to break his hand fighting, it’s not what he gets paid to do.

          • calgaryfan

            Not expecting Monahan to fight, I don’t expect anyone to fight, but watching him skate away and pretend nothing is happening while Johnny is getting manhandled is hard too watch.

  • Clayton

    Amazing that even with how poor they have played recently they still sit on top of the West and 2nd overall in the league. If this is their downside they did well picking up some loser points along the way.

    • Derzie

      Only time I’ve ever welcomed Bettman Loser Points is this season. Hard to believe, watching this team since the all star break, where they are in the standings. Using loser points for good, rather than evil.

  • Albertabeef

    Did someone order secondary scoring? Your order is here!!! lol I’m so happy. That was the kind of game that brings back the confidence for the team.

  • Willi P

    Team appears to be shaking off the rust and starting to get it’s mojo back. The Arizona game will be a good indicator to prove this. Wonder who gets the start in net? I think Rittich needs the next game but I am guessing BP starts Smith against his old team again.

  • Luter 1

    Finally played with a little truculence in our game and what a difference, although Pittsburgh not known to be a tough team to play. Still need a hard hitting bigger forward to help the forecheck.
    Observations: Mangiapanes best game, starting to feel it and a tough little cuss. Possibly Johnnies worst game in years, abuse starting to get to him? It’s not that Czarnik was great (he was good) but deleting Neal and adding him makes this team better. They win when they play fast on the forecheck, on turnovers and special teams. Quick/fast is not on Neal’s resume. Ryan is playing surprisingly effective, never thought I’d see that from him. Hathaway doing his job perfectly.

  • Jourflamesfan

    I’m happy for the win and they really worked hard for it.
    However, I am still very concerned about the goals against per game.
    Yeah Smith played great but he STILL let in 4 goals.
    They have to tighten up defensively or else they will be bounced first round.

    • KootenayFlamesFan

      To be fair, all but one were on the power play and the one that wasn’t was only like 6 seconds after a pp expired so essentially they were all while down a man.

  • Eggy

    Just wow, Ryan looked so dynamic and realistically skill wise has no business being on the fourth line but is a team player and finds ways to put up points with his limited ice time. He has such a nice saucer pass I’ve seen multiple times this year as well. My first star but super happy to see czar and mang get on the scoresheet

    • Speed Kills

      Actually I think being 4th line center is Ryan’s comfort zone. He did very well in CAR doing the same job, He knows his roll and excels at it. He was not so “comfortable ” when placed as the 3rd line guy, maybe he places higher expectation upon himself and can’t play his complete game without over thinking? IMO…

  • Alcanivorax

    Soooooo are “we” done ragging on Ryan?
    He’s now done enough in the season to be appreciated?

    Maybe we can consider that in relation to cutting Neal some slack.

    And for further example: people ragging on Hamonic last season. Hamonic has put his face and body on the line for this team. I’d bet that most on here are happy to have him this season.

    And enough with the “trade proposals” including Neal.

    The Flames won’t trade him. It looks bad trading a marquee FA signing half way into a season because the results aren’t quite there. And because the results are t quite there you can’t really get anything for him.

    “Get a bag of pucks then”
    And what if next year he pulls a Hamonic and rebounds? That bag of pucks looks like a bad trade.

    Don’t forget…he won’t be protected at the expansion draft due to age and contract. We need some players like that.

    • freethe flames

      And he won’t be claimed at the expansion draft. The ragging on Neal will only go away if he is close to earning his contract and so far this year he is not playing well enough. Not even close. Someone mentioned how much the whole team looked today w/o him in the line up and that is b/c of speed. Czarnik has speed. Lazar has speed. The Flames will make a trade before the deadline; I would bet money on it. What it will be it’s anyone’s guess and we will keep guessing until it happen’s; get used to it.

      • KootenayFlamesFan

        Ya I haven’t minded neal this year (as hes been horribly unlucky) but at the rate we’re paying him its definitely an albatross. Even if he scored on most of his chances we’d be barely breaking even. Not a great contract. Hopefully he shows up for the playoffs.

        • Alberta Ice

          Is Neal the passed on curse deficit of Brouwer which goes back to the total end deficit of Wideman? (Some eerily strange conundrums of hexagonal proportions in a superfluous parallel Flames hockey world that not even workers of the X files could eschew. Which is all to say that indeed, Neal is having a very mysterious, disappointing, and a disappearing season. I wish he could put more teeth into his year, but even those keep disappearing.)

          • calgaryfan

            forgot about Wideman, trying to forget about Brouwer, And now have 4 more seasons of Neal. hard to be a Flames fan sometimes. The owners have had to watch these guys and to add insult write them cheques. Maybe the owners need to give Flames management a paid vacation where there is no cell coverage, it would be cheaper.

    • Luter 1

      I”ll admit Ryan is playing his role really well lately but at $3 mill a year can you afford him to be a 4th liner. I guess but his 3 mill and Neals 5.5 mill has to get you more than what we ended up with. Comparing Hamonic to Neal is like apple and oranges, nobody questioned Hamonics heart last year just his poor level of play. Neal has shown no heart, his skating and hands seems to have eroded so not expecting a bounce back from him. Plus he’s been detrimental to the team a lot of nights. Take the bag of pucks and consider us lucky to get out of the contract. Then quit signing over the hill UFA’s in the future.

      • MontanaMan

        He’s much more than “a 4th liner”. He’s able to play anywhere in the bottom 6; takes all key face-offs for a right draw; is an excellent PKer; is on the second PP and has chipped in with some points. Given his total contribution, its significantly more than “just a 4th liner.”

  • Flamesforever

    Great team win! Full of good performances from some of our depth guys. Doc continues to impress, Andersson keeps getting better and better I can’t help but see the top 4 in his future, Kylington and Mangiapane continue to develop. We are in store for one heck of a future, cue the winning streak! 🔥

  • Chucky

    I would not be surprised to see Lazar slot in as 3rd line centre next game. Jankowski looks like a “health” scratch to me. There was just something in his mobility in the third period that made me think “that guy has something wrong” maybe a little twisted knee or ankle.

    • Luter 1

      Not his best game but he never really hurts the team as he is defensively dependable. Still young, still finding his way, his shot is lethal, they need to find a way to use it more. Guys like Mony, live on their shot (his skating and tenacity are suspect) to score 30 a year. Big Ern should be training a few of these guys over the summer with boxing gloves, Janko way too soft for his size.

      • Heeeeere’s Johnny

        Loved the Phat Ras dropped them today. He’s a big presence. If he can be effective once in a while with the gloves off that would be an easy addition of grit. Maybe Big Ern can share some wisdom there cuz the heart was in it but missing some technique.