The Calgary Flames began a busy second half of their season on Wednesday night against the Vegas Golden Knights. Playing their second game in as many nights, Vegas looked tired. Playing their first game in a week, the Flames looked sharp and energized.
The Flames began a span of 40 games in 80 days with a decisive 6-0 win over the Golden Knights.
The Flames were sharp early, making good plays and generating lots of chances. And it led to some goals in the opening frame.
Calgary’s top line generated a lengthy stretch in the offensive zone. Down low in the zone, Johnny Gaudreau passed to Matthew Tkachuk (standing beside the net) and drove towards the slot. Tkachuk passed to Gaudreau, who shelved the puck past Robin Lehner to make it 1-0 Flames. (By the time Vegas’ defenders knew what was happening, the puck was in the net.)
The lead doubled midway through the period. Andrew Mangiapane got sprung for a scoring chance but got held back by the Vegas defenders, leading to a power play. The second unit came out midway through and went to work with some nice passing. Eventually, just after the penalty expired, an around-the-horn passing sequence from Oliver Kylington to Noah Hanifin to Mikael Backlund ended with Backlund beating Lehner with a quick wrister to make it 2-0 Flames.
The Flames made it 3-0 after Elias Lindholm walked into the offensive zone and just fired the puck on net from inside the blueline. Alex Pietrangelo didn’t really engage to block the shot or get into the lane, so he provided a partial high screen instead. Whoops.
Shots were 14-4 Flames (11-4 Flames at five-on-five) and scoring chances 11-4 Flames in the first period.
The Flames were a bit leaky defensively in the early second period, with Nolan Patrick getting a few good chances but Jacob Markstrom standing tall. A little later, the Flames scored off the rush. A passing sequence was ended with Backlund feeding Andrew Mangiapane in the slot to make it 4-0 Flames.
Shots were 11-9 Flames (all at five-on-five) and scoring chances were 10-10 in the second period.
The Flames padded their lead in the third period.
Tkachuk received a pass at the side of the net from Backlund (who was behind the net), and scored with a shot between his legs to make it 5-0 Flames.
Backlund fed Mangiapane late in the period for a chip shot on the power play over Lehner to make it 6-0 Flames.
The Flames held on to preserve the victory. Shots were 13-8 Golden Knights (9-7 Golden Knights at five-on-five) and scoring chances 8-5 Flames in the third period.
Why the Flames won
If we’re being brutally honest here, this was a scheduled win: the Flames were rested and Vegas played the previous night in Edmonton. But the Flames were extremely good in the first period, playing smart, aggressive, tactical hockey and gave themselves a lead. And by that point, the Golden Knights seemed to want to be anywhere but the Saddledome and the locals were able to cruise to victory.
Backlund had a goal and three assists, so let’s give it to him. Honourable mention to Tkachuk, who had a goal and two assists.
The top two lines and two pairings were quite good overall, as was Jacob Markstrom when he was occasionally tested.
The turning point
Call it a cop-out if you want, but the entire first period saw the Golden Knights fail to get out of the starting blocks. At one point, the Flames had as many goals (3) as Vegas had shots on goal.
Percentage stats are 5v5 and via Natural Stat Trick. Game score via Hockey Stat Cards.
This and that
Neither Stone brother dressed for this game. Michael (Calgary) was a healthy scratch, while Mark (Vegas) missed the game with an upper-body injury suffered against Edmonton.
In 13 regular season meetings between the Flames and Golden Knights, the home team has won 11 games.
The Flames are now 17-4-1 when leading after one period and 20-0-1 when leading after two periods.
The Flames (24-13-6) don’t get any time off. They’re back in action again tomorrow night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs!
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