It took 30 games, but the “real” Calgary Flames may have finally made an appearance in the 2019-20 season. Aside from a solid if unspectacular opening 20 minutes, the Flames were full marks en route to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
The Flames played a pretty solid first period but the Sabres struck first off a really nice deflection. Rasmus Ristolainen’s point shot was deflected at the high slot by Sam Reinhart, and the puck beat David Rittich inside the near post to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
But the Flames evened things up late in the period on a power play. After an initial shot was stopped, Johnny Gaudreau collected the puck and opted to shoot, beating Linus Ullmark high to tie the game at 1-1.
Shots were 10-9 Buffalo and scoring chances 5-5 in the opening period.
The Flames were superb in the second period. They had tons of chances and finally broke through midway through the period. Tobias Rieder scored a shorthanded breakaway goal (off a turnover induced by a Derek Ryan block) to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
A few minutes later, the Flames padded their lead off the rush. Sean Monahan and Mikael Backlund worked a give-and-go, ending with Monahan putting a one-timer past Ullmark to make it 3-1 Flames.
Shots were 10-10, but the Flames led 16-6 in scoring chances in the second period.
The Flames paced themselves to a 4-1 lead in the third period off the unicorn of offensive plays: a Milan Lucic goal. A Ryan defensive zone steal led to a three-on-one rush. A few nice passes later and Lucic buried a wrister from the slot past Ullmark to get his first goal as a Flame.
Buffalo pressed late, though, and nearly made a game of it. Jake McCabe buried a Victor Olofsson feed to cut the lead to 4-2. On a late power play (with the goalie pulled for a six-on-four advantage), Jack Eichel cut the lead to 4-3 Flames. But that’s as close as the Sabres got.
Shots were 9-8 Flames and scoring chances 10-3 in the third period.
Why the Flames Won
Honestly? This was as thorough a Flames victory as we’ve seen this season. They took too many dang penalties, granted, but at even strength they took the game over after the first period. If not for the penalties, the Flames could’ve won by a lot more.
All four lines were engaged. Nobody looked awful. It was a very good effort.
Lucic. He scored a game that stood as the game-winner. He gets the nod.
Stick-taps to Gaudreau and Rittich, who were also very sharp.
The Turning Point
Rieder’s short-handed goal came in the middle of a period where the Flames had wildly out-played Buffalo but hadn’t gotten rewarded. They got a lead, kept at it, and ended up finishing off the game with a pretty strong performance rather than getting dissuaded.
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.
This and That
The Flames edged Buffalo in high danger chances 10-4 overall, and had more high danger chances in every single period.
My cousin is visiting from out of town, so we watched the game from a pub in the Beltline.
All it took for Milan Lucic to score was @RyanNPike staying home tonight.
— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) December 6, 2019
You’re welcome, Milan.
The Flames (14-12-4) are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings in the late game on Hockey Night in Canada.