The Calgary Flames beat the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night in Calgary in a game neither team was completely happy with, especially Minnesota. The Wild were much better at home against the Flames on Tuesday night in the rematch, but the Flames were just a little bit better.
The Flames rode strong special teams and goaltending performances to a 5-1 victory over the Wild to sweep their home-and-home set.
The Flames drew an early power play, as Tyler Toffoli was fouled on the forecheck. On the ensuing PP, Matthew Tkachuk received a cross-zone pass from Elias Lindholm and leaned into it with a one-timer that beat Cam Talbot to make it 1-0 Flames.
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 2, 2022
The Wild pressed hard for the remainder of the period, using a fast forecheck (and hitting) to generate turnovers and odd-man chances. The Flames managed to defend fairly well to avoid too many high-danger opportunities, though.
Late in the period, the Flames added to their lead. Andrew Mangiapane was battling in the corner of the Wild zone and cycled the puck up the boards to the point for Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson’s point shot glanced off a Wild player’s leg, wobbled, bounced off Mangiapane’s skate out front, off Mikael Backlund’s skate out front, and landed right at Mangiapane’s feet. He put it past Talbot to make it 2-0 Flames.
You absolutely loaf to see it. pic.twitter.com/FsCGHFWyli
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) March 2, 2022
Shots were 12-10 Wild (8-8 at five-on-five) and scoring chances 5-3 Flames in the first period.
The Wild continued to press in the second period and finally broke through midway through the period. The puck blooped past Noah Hanifin as he challenged a Joel Eriksson Ek zone entry on the rush. Kirill Kaprizov retrieved the puck and looked for a pass. Gudbranson went after Kaprizov and the Flames had nobody in the zone yet to guard the slot, where Marcus Foligno received Kaprizov’s pass and beat Jacob Markstrom to cut the lead to 2-1 Flames.
But on the very next shift, the Flames answered back. The top line got into the Wild zone and moved the puck quickly. Tkachuk found Lindholm in the slot area with a nice pass that was one-timed past Talbot to give the Flames a 3-1 lead.
The Wild pressured late in the period, but Markstrom stood tall.
Shots were 10-10 (8-7 Flames five-on-five) and scoring chances 8-8 in the second period.
The Flames had an early power play in the third period, carrying over from the end of the second period. They cashed in, with Johnny Gaudreau finding Toffoli around the crease area with a quick pass for a redirect past Talbot that made it 4-1 Flames.
Backlund added an empty net goal to make it a 5-1 Flames victory.
Shots were 11-8 Wild (9-5 Wild at five-on-five) and scoring chances 14-2 Wild in the third period.
Why the Flames won
The Flames weren’t perfect. The fourth line had a rough time and got hemmed into their own zone quite a bit. The Flames also had trouble with Minnesota’s speed on the forecheck, and their puck management had challenges as a consequence.
But the Flames power play scored twice. Their penalty kill allowed zero goals. Their goaltender was quite good. They got timely goals that served to deflate Minnesota’s momentum at key moments. They didn’t dominate this game, but they very much deserved the victory.
Lindholm was very good in this game, winning draws, making plays and scoring a key goal. We’ll give him the nod here, but Markstrom was also very good, as were Mangiapane, Backlund, Tkachuk, Gaudreau and several other players in red.
The turning point
The Flames were good in this game at getting the proverbial “next goal.” Up 1-0 late in the first, they got the “next” goal that bumped them to a two-goal lead and gave them breathing room. 21 seconds after Minnesota scored in the second period, the Flames scored to reinstate their two-goal lead and gave them breathing room. They scored early in the third period to give themselves a three-goal lead and expanded that breathing room.
Three key goals at key times that tilted this game.
Percentage stats are 5v5 and via Natural Stat Trick. Game score via Hockey Stat Cards.
This and that
Johnny Gaudreau had two assists on the evening, pushing him to 561 career points. He’s just one point behind the great Kent Nilsson for sixth on the franchise’s all-time leaderboard.
Nikita Zadorov fought Ryan Hartman in the first period.
The Flames are now 25-5-3 when scoring first, 22-4-1 when leading after the first period and 26-0-1 when leading after the second period.
The Flames (32-14-6) are headed home. They face the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night at the Saddledome.
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