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Flames special teams shine against Avalanche, but there’s work to do

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
3 months ago
For two minutes, Rasmus Andersson and Mikael Backlund talked about it. They had been informed that Andersson would be leaving the penalty box when his minor penalty elapsed, with Backlund staying until the next whistle due to a coincidental penalty. They joked that Andersson would get out of the box and get a breakaway.
And then Andersson got out of the box and got a breakaway.
The Calgary Flames’ season-opening 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche was that type of game, a bit of a weird one.
Speaking after the game, MacKenzie Weegar thought it was the first time he had ever sprung a fellow blueliner for a breakaway chance. Head coach Darryl Sutter quipped, “A defenceman scoring on a breakaway, you don’t see it very often.”
In addition to chuckles about Andersson’s breakaway beauty – finished via a move he says he used when he took shootouts with the Stockton Heat – the other common refrain was that the Flames’ special teams performance bailed them out of a game where their play five-on-five wasn’t up to snuff.
The Flames scored twice on the power play (by Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli), scored a shorthanded goal (by Dillon Dube), and Andersson’s breakaway came after another Avalanche advantage. They scored one goal that was purely the product of even strength hockey, scored by the fourth line (by Brett Ritchie) in the opening period to tie the game at 1-1.
On the other side of the coin, Colorado scored twice at even strength – a Bowen Byram marker 99 seconds into the game that Sutter termed “a fluky one,” and a Nathan MacKinnon goal 21 seconds after a Flames power play tally – and added a Valeri Nichushkin goal on the power play to get the game close in the third period. (Sutter noted that the Flames took two or three “bad penalties” and eventually, it cost them.)
The Flames, it could be argued, won the special teams game 4-1. Colorado won the even strength clash 2-1.
All-told, the Flames out-shot Colorado 25-27, but shots were tied 21-21 at five-on-five. Five-on-five scoring chances, per Natural Stat Trick, were 22-14 in favour of the Flames, but Colorado had a 13-10 edge after the first period. (High-danger chances were 8-6 Flames overall, but 5-2 Colorado over the final 40 minutes of play.)
“We still got to play a bit better, especially five-on-five,” said Andersson. “Honestly, from midway through the second to the third. Our special teams saved us today. We’ve got to be better five-on-five.”
“We’re satisfied with the win, but there’s still a lot of things to work on,” said Weegar.
Another big test awaits the Flames: they head to Edmonton for the season’s first Battle of Alberta on Saturday night.

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