Back when Ville Nieminen wore 24 for the Calgary Flames, he coined a phrase: “hospital hockey.” The phrase was used to describe tight-checking, low-event hockey, and referred to how much patience it took to play that style. The Flames hosted the Edmonton Oilers on Monday evening and seemed to embrace hospital hockey.
In a very low-event affair, the Flames skated away with a 3-1 victory over the Oilers.
The opening period was quite low-event. The Oilers had two power plays but didn’t score. The Flames had one power play but didn’t score. The teams combined for four scoring chances (3-1 Flames) and shots were 8-6 Flames (5-5 at five-on-five). It wasn’t a bad period, but it was defined by defensive play and missed chances.
The second period wasn’t wide-open, by any stretch, but it featured a few windows of offense for the home team. Elias Lindholm took an early minor penalty but the Flames killed it off. Lindholm came out of the box and drew a penalty in the offensive zone, giving Calgary another PP chance. On that PP, Matthew Tkachuk tried his fancy between-the-legs shot (a.k.a. “The Tkachuk”). The puck rolled off his stick, but rolled across the goal-mouth area right to Tyler Toffoli, who jammed the puck past Mikko Koskinen to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
The Flames padded their lead a few minutes later. Andrew Mangiapane made a smart pass, springing Adam Ruzicka into the Edmonton zone (albeit with a defender blocking his path). But Ruzicka noticed Toffoli skating in unobstructed on the left wing, found him with a pass, and Toffoli beat Koskinen top corner to give the Flames a 2-0 edge.
Shots were 11-10 Oilers (9-8 Oilers at five-on-five) and scoring chances 10-6 Oilers in the second period.
The Oilers got one back midway through the third period. A dump-in was played behind the net by Jacob Markstrom, but it glanced off a stanchion and then deflected off referee Dan O’Rourke’s skate. The initial scoring chance by Derek Ryan was stopped by a scrambling Markstrom, by Devin Shore got the rebound in the slot in front of a wide-open and buried the gimme to cut Calgary’s lead to 2-1.
The Oilers pressed but the Flames held them off. Lindholm jumped on an Oilers turnover by Darnell Nurse and sent Johnny Gaudreau in on a breakaway. He deked out Koskinen and beat him inside the post to extend Calgary’s lead to 3-1.
The Flames tried to get Toffoli the empty net opportunity, but alas, they could not, and this game ended with a 3-1 final score. Shots were 12-11 Flames (8-6 Oilers at five-on-five) and scoring chances 6-4 Oilers in the third period.
Why the Flames won
The Flames didn’t seem to have much offensive swagger on this occasion. But they also seemed perfectly content to play a low-event game and tried to grind out a win by keeping the Oilers’ skill players to the outside and leaning on them. They were fairly successful.
Special teams was, ultimately, the difference-maker in this one. The Flames scored on the power play and their penalty kill did what they could to disrupt Edmonton’s man advantage play.
Toffoli scored twice, so let’s give him the nod. But don’t forget some nice work by Lindholm and Markstrom in this game.
The turning point
Can we collectively just say all of Edmonton’s power plays? In the prior two meetings between these clubs, Edmonton’s power play excellence tilted the game. In this one, their lack of excellence did so.
Percentage stats are 5v5 and via Natural Stat Trick. Game score via Hockey Stat Cards.
This and that
The Ukrainian anthem was performed before puck drop, with the full contingent from each team lined up on their respective bluelines.
Listed attendance was 17,246, about 1,000 better than the first full capacity game against Montreal on Thursday evening.
The Flames are now 27-0-2 when leading after two periods and 26-5-4 when scoring first.
The Flames (34-14-7) don’t get much of a break. They’re back in action on Tuesday night when they host the Washington Capitals.
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