Calgary Flames Post-Game: Flames ground Jets to stay alive in the playoff race
Photo credit:Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike7 months ago
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It was a do-or-die 60 minutes of hockey at Canada Life Centre for the Calgary Flames. And facing a rested Winnipeg Jets team, the Flames managed to do, rather than die.
In a chippy, tense game with penalty of hits and post-whistle scrums, the Flames held on for a 3-1 victory over the Jets to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff race.
This game was chippy. The tone was set less than two minutes into the game, when Pierre-Luc Dubois upended Rasmus Andersson while battling for a puck, leading to Andersson laying on the ice for awhile (and a Dubois minor for boarding). Andersson stayed in the game, but was booed whenever he had the puck.
A pair of offensive zone penalties by the Flames, one of them a double-minor, gave the Jets power play some reps, and they cashed in. During the second half of the double-minor, with Milan Lucic in the box for high-sticking, Kyle Connor buried a one-timer feed from Nikolaj Ehlers short-side, glove-side past Jacob Markstrom to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.
The Flames scored twice in the second period to tie the game.
First, Nikita Zadorov induced a turnover at the Flames’ blueline from Smau Maenalanen and sent Nick Ritchie in on a breakaway. Ritchie’s shot was stopped by Connor Hellebuyck, but Zadorov followed him in and fired the loose rebound into the Jets net. But the goal was challenged by the Jets for goalie interference and called back, as Ritchie cut through the crease and made contact with Hellebuyck’s pad on his way through.
But the Flames eventually answered back. The Jets had an odd-man rush and Markstrom made a big save. The Flames corralled the puck and moved it up the ice, sending Mikael Backlund in on a two-on-one with Andrew Mangiapane. Just when everybody assumed Backlund would shoot, he passed to Mangiapane (who was covered) and Mangiapane buried the feed anyway, tying the game at 1-1.
(There was a bit of a scrum after this goal.)
Five minutes into the third period, the Flames took the lead for the first time. The Flames had an power play but couldn’t convert. But shortly after that advantage, the fourth line added a goal. Walker Duehr went behind the net to retrieve a puck and seemed to be aiming a back-door pass to a waiting Trevor Lewis. But Nate Schmidt, battling with Lewis, had the puck deflect in off his stick instead. Whoops. That made it 2-1 Flames.
The Flames added some insurance midway through the third period. Jonathan Huberdeau carried the puck into the Jets zone and waited patiently for Nikita Zadorov to enter the zone as the trailer. Huberdeau hit him with a crisp pass and Zadorov beat Hellebuyck high with a wrister to give the Flames a 3-1 lead.
The Jets pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker late in regulation, but the Flames held on for the victory.
Why the Flames won
The Flames didn’t play their best hockey throughout this game. They were decent enough in the first period, but the Jets carried play. But the Flames got better as the game went on, gradually getting the sloppiness out of their game.
The Flames calmed things down and got timely goals, while their goaltending was better at crunch time than Winnipeg’s. That’s usually a recipe for two points.
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It’s gotta be Markstrom. The Flames were a bit leaky defensively, but Markstrom made a ton of timely, big saves and kept the Flames very much in it, allowing them to calm things down, build their game, and gradually find their stride.
Give the Flames credit: they put themselves in a position where they just needed to win the third period to win the game. And then they went out and did it. Their third period was really effective hockey. They scored a pair of big goals and got some big saves, especially a breakaway stop by Markstrom on Ehlers with about two minutes left in regulation.
This and that
As noted, there was a big ol’ scrum after Mangiapane’s goal. It started behind the play after Dubois whacked Markstrom and Markstrom squirted Dubois with his water bottle. Chris Tanev came off the bench as part of a regular substitution for Rasmus Andersson (who stuck around when the scrum started), leading to a too-many-men minor stemming from the scrum. (If you come off the bench to start an altercation, it’s a game misconduct, but if you just get involved in one off the bench and don’t start it, it’s too many men.)
The Flames’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to 4.5 – the combined number of Flames wins and Jets losses. Their tragic number to be eliminated is still 3 – the combined number of Jets wins and Flames losses.
The Flames (37-27-15) are back in action on Saturday night when they visit the Vancouver Canucks.
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