Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Calgary Flames Post-Game: Flames can’t solve Austin Matthews in loss to the Leafs
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
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The Calgary Flames played a pretty good game on Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They weren’t without mistakes or miscues, but they generally played well. But the Maple Leafs have a game-changer by the name of Auston Matthews, and the Flames allowed him to have the puck on his stick in the offensive zone a few too many times.
Matthews had a hat trick in a 4-3 Flames loss to the Leafs.
This game started pretty tight-checking and structured, with the Flames controlling slightly more of the game and getting slightly better chances than the visitors.
Midway through the first period, the Flames opened the scoring on a nice cycle play in the Toronto end. Jonathan Huberdeau cycled the puck to Rasmus Andersson at the right point. Andersson’s shot was deflected by Yegor Sharangovich in the slot and beat Martin Jones to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, with Morgan Rielly in the box of punishment, the Flames scored 11 seconds into their power play. Off the face-off the Flames made a couple passes, ending with Nazem Kadri getting fed the puck in the slot. He didn’t get a great shot off, but the puck wobbled off his stick, off Mark Giordano’s skate, and beat Jones to boost the Flames’ lead to 2-0.
But the Leafs got one back before the period ended. Noah Gregor swatted at a puck at the Flames blueline that kept the puck in the offensive zone. Auston Matthews collected the puck, cut between the two Flames defenders, and fired a shot that beat Dan Vladar high to cut the Flames lead to 2-1.
First period shots were 11-7 Flames (10-6 Flames at five-on-five) and, via Natural Stat Trick, five-on-five scoring chances were 10-3 Flames (high-dangers were 5-0 Flames).
The Leafs drew even on another Matthews snipe early in the second period. Blake Coleman was nabbed for tripping and on the delayed penalty, with Jones on the bench for the extra attacker, Matthews fired another shot that beat Vladar to tie things up at 2-2.
During a stretch of four-on-four play (due to some off-setting minors), Noah Hanifin took a minor penalty which led to a 4-on-3 power play for Toronto. On the ensuing advantage, after some really nice passing by the team in white and blue, Mitch Marner’s shot beat Vladar high to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.
Later in the period the Leafs stuck again. Matthew Knies and Matthews were sprung into the Flames zone on a two-on-two rush. Knies’ shot was stopped by Vladar, but the rebound landed in Matthews’ vicinity in the slot and he shot it past Vladar to complete the hat trick and give Toronto a 4-2 lead.
But the Flames got a weird one late in the period to get back within a goal. Andrew Mangiapane fired a feed from Mikael Backlund that Jones stopped, but the rebound booted out to Mangiapane again. He booted the puck and it slid towards the goal line, where a Leafs player tried to halt its progress with his stick… but it still crossed the line. The call on the ice was no-goal – distinct kicking motion, after all – but after review, it was judged that the Leafs player made sufficient contact with his stick to make the booting of the puck irrelevant and the goal valid. That cut Toronto’s lead to 4-3.
Second period shots were 17-10 Maple Leafs (11-10 Maple Leafs at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 10-9 Maple Leafs (high-dangers were 6-4 Flames).
Midway through the third, the Flames made a push and Connor Zary got his own rebound and beat Jones. However, the Leafs challenged the goal for a missed hand pass and it turned out that, yes, Blake Coleman made a hand pass. The goal was waved off.
The Flames kept pressing, even pulling Vladar for the extra attacker, but they couldn’t solve Jones again, and the Leafs held on for a 4-3 road win.
Third period shots were 9-5 Maple Leafs (9-4 Maple Leafs at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 12-3 Maple Leafs (high-dangers were 9-0 Maple Leafs).
Why the Flames lost
The Flames were pretty good in this game for big chunks. They managed the puck, they moved their feet, and they were generally quite solid – and occasionally borderline dominant in terms of puck possession. But they just couldn’t contain Matthews enough to get any points out of this game. The main culprit, as mentioned by several players (and head coach Ryan Huska) post-game: neutral zone turnovers.
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Huberdeau had a couple assists, so we’ll give him the nod. But a bunch of Flames had pretty good outings – including Nazem Kadri, Backlund, Coleman and Mangiapane.
Matthews’ hat trick goal in the second period, the eventual game-winner, put the Flames just too far behind the visitors.
This and that
Jonathan Huberdeau returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game against Arizona due to illness.
Martin Pospisil blew a tire and crashed awkwardly into the boards late in the first period. He left the game and didn’t return. Adam Ruzicka replaced him on Nazem Kadri’s line.
The Flames (21-19-5) are back in action on Saturday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers.
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