The Calgary Flames played the first two games of their season-high six game road trip in the state of Florida. They played two pretty good games of hockey, and won one of them. The difference between their loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their win over the Florida Panthers?
Execution of the key details of their game were a bit better against Florida than Tampa, which contributed to them leaving Sunrise with two points via a 5-4 shootout win.
“A good game,” assessed Flames head coach Darryl Sutter following the game. “We fought back through a lot of adversity during the game.”
Things have occasionally snowballed for the Flames this season – when the other team starts scoring, sometimes the Flames can’t get ’em to stop or just can’t answer back. On Saturday afternoon, the Flames had leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3.
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On one hand, the Panthers kept finding ways to tie the game. On the other hand, the Flames never allowed them to pull away when the game was deadlocked.
When the game was tied, the Flames scored three times to take the lead.
“Other than the face-off, they were dirty goals, right?” said Sutter. “A lot of teams play very similar kind of games, that’s the way you gotta play. Boards and bluelines, corners, front of the nets.”
The four Flames goals were all products of good execution in key areas and, as Sutter noted, fairly “dirty”. In short: the type of goals that were in short supply in Tampa on Thursday in the 4-1 loss.
  • Puck battles won on the power play and a couple good passes gave Adam Ruzicka a clear shooting lane to make it 1-0
  • A clean entry and a smart pass by Ruzicka gave Nikita Zadorov a shooting lane, and he took advantage of an inadvertent Matthew Tkachuk screen on a shot block attempt to make it 2-0
  • A clean face-off win by Elias Lindholm led to a Ruzicka one-timer to make it 3-2
  • A Jonathan Huberdeau body check caused a turnover in Florida’s zone, which allowed Mikael Backlund to find Blake Coleman out front to make it 4-3
In his seventh game of the season – and sixth on the wing with Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli – Ruzicka had three points, giving him eight on the season.
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“Need him to score,” said Sutter of Ruzicka’s performance. “Need him to contribute at both ends of the ice. Did a good job. The line’s been really good for us.”
Was it a perfect game by the Flames? Definitely not. After all, they did allow three leads to slip away.
But playing a good team on the road, and with three players from their blockbuster trade involved in their first head-to-head clash, the Flames didn’t let the emotion of the game get the better of them. Aside from a few key lapses that gave Florida daylight – a puck-handling mishap by Jacob Markstrom that led to a goal, and a Brett Ritchie skirmish that resulted in the forward (a) getting the extra minor, (b) leaving the game with an injury, and (c) a Panthers power play goal – the Flames looked poised, stayed structured, and generally played an effective road game.
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There’s a lot of room for growth in the Flames’ game. They’re most definitely not where they want to be. But Saturday’s performance – a road win against a strong opponent – is a big step in the right direction.