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Friends, there are two ways to look at Thursday night’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings. On one hand, the Flames lost in overtime, by a 4-3 score, to a divisional foe. On the other hand, the Flames rallied back from a 3-1 third period deficit to grind out a key point against a divisional foe. (Your mileage may vary.)
The Flames have earned five of a possible six points in the first three games of their pre-Christmas California road trip.
This game featured a good amount of body-checking, stick-checking, and overall was pretty tight-checking. If you like 200-foot hockey, with occasional lapses that led to scoring opportunities, this one was for you.
The Flames opened the scoring just over three minutes into the game. A Kings pass bonked off Anze Kopitar’s skates and went right to Milan Lucic inside the Flames’ blueline. He fed Jonathan Huberdeau, springing his linemate for a breakaway. Huberdeau beat Pheonix Copley five-hole to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.
The Flames got in a bit of penalty trouble after that, but they managed to kill those penalties off. But later in the period. the Kings tied things up. A Sean Walker point shot deflected off Gabriel Vilardi’s arm, bounced around a bit, and got past Dan Vladar and into the Flames’ net to tie the game up at 1-1.
First period shots were 10-3 Kings (5-3 Kings at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 4-2 Flames (high-danger chances were 2-0 Kings).
The second period featured chances in both directions, but neither team scored.
Second period shots were 11-6 Flames (9-5 Flames at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 14-11 Flames (high-dangers were 4-4).
89 seconds into the third period, the Kings took a lead off some miscues below the goal line by Chris Tanev and MacKenzie Weegar. Tanev won a puck battle and shuffled the puck over to Weegar, but Weegar misplayed the puck and it was stolen by Alex Iafallo and sent to a wide-open Phillip Danault out front. Danault had oodles of time, and tucked the puck past Vladar to give the Kings a 2-1 lead.
10 seconds later, the Kings struck again. Three Flames defenders chased after Vilardi on a zone entry. Vladar stopped Vilardi’s initial shot, but the puck rebounded to the slot for Blake Lizotte, who had a ton of space and fired the puck past Vladar to give the Kings a 3-1 lead.
The Flames answered back a little later on the power play. Tyler Toffoli received a feed from Rasmus Andersson and fired a shot from his off-wing, beating Copley top shelf to cut the Kings’ advantage to 3-2.
A bit later, after a Michael Stone slash on a clear scoring chance, Vladar stopped Kevin Fiala on a penalty shot.
Later in the period, the Flames tied things up off a set face-off play. Elias Lindholm won the draw back to Noah Hanifin, who pinched low and swung around to the far side of the net. Dillon Dube headed to the other side of the net, received a pass from Hanifin, and buried the puck past Copley to make it 3-3.
The Flames had a few chances to get the go-ahead goal late in the period – and so did the Kings for that matter – but this game required extra time.
Third period shots were 14-14 (14-13 Kings at five-on-five) and five-on-five scoring chances were 16-8 Kings (high-dangers were 6-3 Kings).
The Flames had their chances in overtime – Huberdeau, Kadri and Mikael Backlund all had good looks in the Kings zone – but Andersson got caught back defending a two-on-one rush on Viktor Arvidsson and Adrian Kempe. He didn’t seem to commit to checking the pass or the shot, and a passing play later, Kempe potted the game-winner to give the Kings a 4-3 overtime victory.
Why the Flames got a point
This was a playoff-style game, albeit a bit sloppy defensively, featuring two smart structural teams crashing and banging and hoping the other team would make a mistake. Turns out that these teams are pretty evenly matched.
The Kings executed a little bit better than the Flames did in this one, but the Flames did a great job clawing their way back into this game after going down early in the third period.
Let’s go with the top line of Lindholm, Toffoli and Dube, jointly. They were huge in the comeback effort, and once again they were consistently good and occasionally quite dangerous in the offensive zone.
Stick-tap to Vladar, too. Playing his first game since Dec. 10, he was really sharp when called upon.
Let’s go with the last 15 minutes of the third period, and here’s why: the Flames got down two goals early in the third period, playing a divisional opponent in a tough building, off a pair of defensive miscues. They could have packed it in and gone “Oh well, there’s always Anaheim on Friday…”
But they didn’t. Instead, they hunkered down, stuck with the gameplan, and chipped away at the Kings.
This and that
The Fiala penalty shot was the second Vladar has faced in his NHL career. He was scored on by Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller back in February on a penalty shot – that was the chaotic game where Vladar came in cold when Markstrom was getting shelled, then immediately faced the penalty shot.
The Flames (15-12-7) finish off their road trip on Friday night against the Anaheim Ducks.