Calgary Flames Post-Game: Flames let one slip away in Pittsburgh

Photo credit:Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
6 months ago
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For two periods on Saturday night, the Calgary Flames looked really, really good on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But the Flames unravelled a bit early in the third period, and that was the difference.
The Penguins took over the contest in the third period and held on for a 5-2 win over the Flames.

The rundown

The Flames played a pretty good first period, especially for a road team. They managed the puck well, carried play, and were generally the better team at even strength. But their game flow was disrupted a bit by penalties. A turnover at their own blueline led to a penalty to Nikita Zadorov, a string of penalties from both teams, and some really nice saves by Jacob Markstrom.
The Flames did a pretty good job at keeping lanes and sight-lines clear for their goaltender, and he did a damn fine job getting in the way of the puck any way that he could.
First period shots were 15-11 Flames (12-5 at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 14-4 Flames (high-dangers were 6-2).
The second period was less eventful, but the Flames kept doing their thing. They stayed out of the box, generally carried play, and they drew some penalties which eventually led to the game’s first goal.
After Jonathan Huberdeau was toppled in the offensive zone, the Flames’ power play went to work late in the second period. After an initial shot didn’t make its way to the net, Elias Lindholm teed up a feed to Matt Coronato to the right of Penguins netminder Alex Nedeljkovic. Coronato leaned into a one-timer, beating Nedeljkovic over the shoulder for his first-ever NHL goal. That made it 1-0 Flames.
Second period shots were 11-5 Flames (7-4 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 7-3 Flames (high-dangers were 2-1 Flames).
The game got away from the Flames early in the third period. The Penguins obviously went into the second intermission smarting, and they came out playing smart, aggressive, and tactically-sound.
18 seconds in, the Penguins tied the game. Kris Letang’s point shot through traffic missed the Flames net entirely. Bryan Rust collected the puck off the end boards and chucked it at the crease area, where it bonked into the net off the back of Markstrom’s legs to make it a 1-1 hockey game.
23 seconds later, the Penguins cashed in again to take the lead. MacKenzie Weegar over-committed on a puck challenge at the Flames blueline and got skated around by the Penguins attacker, leading to a two-on one sequence with Zadorov defending against Evgeni Malkin and Reilly Smith. It ended poorly, with Smith having all kinds of time and space to fire a shot past Markstrom to make it 2-1 Penguins.
A little while later, the Penguins scored again. Sidney Crosby won an offensive zone face-off and after a few passes, Jake Guentzel leaned into a one-timer feed and blasted it past Markstrom to make it 3-1.
Late in the period, Noah Hanifin’s attempted outlet pass to Mikael Backlund (in the neutral zone) was intercepted at the blueline by Smith. A couple passes later and Malkin fired the puck past Markstrom to go up 4-1.
With less than four minutes left, the Flames got one back. The Flames cycled the puck in a scramble in front of the Penguins net. Jonathan Huberdeau attempted to pass the puck to a pinching Rasmus Andersson, but the puck went off Guentzel’s skate and into the Penguins net to cut the lead to 4-2.
But that was all she wrote, and the Penguins added an empty-netter from Rust to cement a 5-2 victory over the Flames.
Third period shots were 14-10 Penguins (13-8 Penguins at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 12-12 (high-dangers were 5-3 Penguins).

Why the Flames lost

On one hand, this was a scheduled win for the Flames, even on the road, playing against a Penguins team that played the day before in Washington. And for two periods, the Flames did a lot of things well at five-on-five – when they avoided penalties, they were easily the better team.
But the Penguins are a veteran-laden team, playing at home against a Flames team that has much less seasoning in key situations than they do. And the Penguins made adjustments during the second intermission and out-worked and out-executed the Flames early in the third period. That was enough to tilt the game.
The Flames played really well for big chunks of this hockey game, but they just weren’t good enough at the key moments in the third period to skate away with two points.
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Red Warrior

Let’s go with Markstrom, who was excellent in the first period during a couple Penguins’ power play opportunities. Put a different goaltender in net, and this game could’ve been out of hand in the first period.

Turning point

The Flames had few answers for the Penguins early in the third period, as the veteran-laden team really grabbed hold of this game.

This and that

Rasmus Andersson and Jonathan Huberdeau served as alternate captains. (It appears that the split for the four alternates this season will be Andersson and Huberdeau on the road, and Chris Tanev and Elias Lindholm at home, at least based on the first two games.)
During a first-period TV timeout, the Penguins paid tribute to the late, great Chris Snow.

Up next

The Flames (1-1-0) are back in action on Monday night when they visit Matthew Phillips and the Washington Capitals.

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