Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
For the second Battle of Alberta in a row, the Calgary Flames couldn’t fully overcome a slow start
By Ryan Pike1 month ago
On Oct. 29, the Calgary Flames met the Edmonton Oilers in a highly-anticipated Heritage Classic. They got out to a rough start, getting out-shot in the first period and spending much of the game chasing.
In Saturday’s rematch with the Oilers, the Flames must have felt a palpable sense of deja vu early on. But unlike their trip to Edmonton three months ago, the Flames managed to nearly salvage their second meeting.
In the Heritage Classic, the Flames were out-shot 14-7, lost the high-danger chance battle 8-0 and were out-scored 3-1 in the opening period. They didn’t seem to get their game together until the third period, which was far too late to make it competitive.
On Saturday night, the Flames faced a similar early offensive deluge from the Oilers. They were out-shot 13-9 and lost the high-danger chance battle 7-3 in the first frame. But some superb netminding from Dan Vladar held the Flames in the game, and allowed them to get their game – and their feet – going to start the second period.
The Flames rallied back from a first period deficit to make a game of it. But for the second meeting of the season, the Flames never had a lead against the Oilers, ultimately losing by a 3-1 score.
Flames head coach Ryan Huska felt the team starting to skate was the key to them battling back.
“We started to skate,” said Huska. “Like I said, I thought we did a little too much watching and seeing how things were going to go, and then we started to skate and compete harder in the second, third.”
Flames defenceman MacKenzie Weegar also praised his group’s second period, but was generally down on their performance on the whole.
“Second period was a good period for us,” said Weegar. “Thought we put them on their heels a bit, we were forechecking hard, getting pucks back, generating some offence, some chances, moving the puck quick. In the third period, we were just kinda chasing it a bit there. Just wanted a little bit more from everybody tonight.”
The difference in Round 2 of the 2023-24 Battle of Alberta was, sadly, the bounces – and the Flames’ lack of offensive game-changers to overcome those bounces.
Early in the third period, Sam Gagner attempted to pass the puck from below the goal line to the slot in the Calgary zone. The puck went off Rasmus Andersson’s stick – he was attempting to block the pass, as he’s supposed to – and off Vladar’s glove – he was positioned to anticipate the slot chance, as he’s supposed to – and off the post and into the Flames net. Everybody played the situation properly, but the puck ended up in their net.
Several teammates noted how well Vladar played, especially early in the game, and bemoaned their inability to score that proverbial next goal to overcome that rough sequence on Gagner’s go-ahead goal.
“That’s the game sometimes, though,” assessed Huska of the bounce that victimized Vladar. “You can’t fault him at all. I thought he was excellent tonight.”
The Flames are back in action on Tuesday when they host the St. Louis Blues.
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