Calgary Flames Post-Game: Flames tame the Sharks to keep playoff hopes afloat
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike2 months ago
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The Calgary Flames welcomed the last-place San Jose Sharks to the Saddledome on Saturday afternoon. The Flames needed points to stay mathematically alive in the playoff race. The Sharks entered the game as the 32nd-ranked team in the NHL standings.
The Flames didn’t blow the Sharks out of the water by any measure, but they were the better team en route to a 5-3 home ice victory.
The Flames opened the scoring early in the first period. They had some zone time but couldn’t get the puck into the slot. But the puck blooped into the slot off a 50/50 battle near the Sharks net, and an alert MacKenzie Weegar crept down from the point to the slot and buried the loose puck to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
A little later, the Flames made it 2-0 off a really nice passing sequence. Jonathan Huberdeau fed Elias Lindholm in the Sharks zone with a nice pass, and Lindholm fired another nice pass to Tyler Toffoli’s stick. Toffoli put the puck past Kaapo Kahkonen to double the Calgary lead.
But after giving up the first two goals (and four shots) in this game, the Sharks woke up and pushed back. Eventually, they got on the board. Off the rush. a pinching Erik Karlsson found Logan Couture streaking towards the Calgary net. Couture redirected Karlsson’s great pass past Jacob Markstrom (and then lost his footing and slid into the net) to cut the Flames’ lead to 2-1.
The second period was briefly eventful, with three goals scored by the two teams over a 47 seconds span.
At one end of the ice, Andrew Mangiapane just barely whiffed on a chance in the slot. The play went the other way, and Noah Gregor threw a puck into the net-front area that Nico Sturm got a stick blade on to redirect past Markstrom to tie the game at 2-2.
A few seconds later, the Sharks added another one to take the lead. Steven Lorentz entered the zone on the rush and deked the puck between Rasmus Andersson’s legs to go in alone against Markstrom. Lorentz’s shot clanged off the crossbar, but Martin Kaut swooped in and slid the loose rebound under Markstrom to score and make it 3-2 Sharks.
But seconds after the Sharks took the lead, the Flames answered back. The Sharks couldn’t clear the puck out of their own end, with Trevor Lewis chasing down an errant puck. He threw a one-time feed across the zone to a waiting Walker Duehr, who buried the feed past Kahkonen to tie the game up at 3-3.
The Flames took the lead in the midst of the third period off a nicely executed offensive zone sequence from the new-look third line. Duehr entered the zone and protected the puck as his linemates joined him in the zone. The Sharks poked the puck away from Duehr, but it went right to Milan Lucic. Lucic fired a puck on net and the rebound went to Duehr. Duehr threw the puck on net and Nazem Kadri poked in the loose rebound to give the Flames a 4-3 edge.
Toffoli scored an empty-netter to give the Flames a 5-3 victory.
Why the Flames won
The Flames showed bursts of really strong play here and there in this game. They were excellent early. They were pretty good in pockets of the second and third periods. In other games, against better opposition, this type of performance probably sees the Flames on the bad side of the ledger. But against the Sharks, 25-30 minutes of really good play – some of them consecutive – was enough to get the W.
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Man, Duehr was flying in this game. Throwing hits. Protecting the puck. Making smart passes. For a fourth line guy, he was really, really good. (Heck, his performance would’ve been good in anybody’s role.)
The Flames remain the only NHL club without a third period comeback victory. So you can imagine the group probably breathed a sigh of relief when they scored immediately after the Sharks took the lead in the second period.
This and that
The Flames swapped centres in the third period, with Nazem Kadri getting promoted (?) to play with Milan Lucic and Walker Duehr and Trevor Lewis getting demoted (?) to play with Dillon Dube and Nick Ritchie. The new-look Kadri line scored the game-winning goal, so it seemed like a smart swap.
This was Mikael Backlund’s 900th career game. He received a video tribute at the first TV timeout and a brief standing ovation from the Saddledome crowd.
The Flames (33-26-15) are back at it on Tuesday evening when they host the Los Angeles Kings.
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