In the classic Simpsons episode “Bart Carny,” a character exclaims at the episode’s climax: “There’s no shame being beaten by the best.” I couldn’t help but think of that quote during tonight’s game between the Calgary Flames and the Washington Capitals.
The Flames have been white-hot lately, losing just three games in regulation since late January. The Capitals, on the other hand, are one of the top teams in the entire NHL and have been all season. Down a couple of regulars, the Flames weren’t quite good enough to hang with Washington en route to a 4-2 loss.
There’s no shame being beaten by the best. Especially if they’re not from the Western Conference.
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THE RUNDOWN

Despite playing without Matthew Tkachuk and Micheal Ferland, the Flames hung in there during the first period. They got caught early, though, as Evgeni Kuznetsov scored just after getting out of the penalty box following a roughing minor (Troy Brouwer got nabbed at the same time) to make it 1-0. The Flames answered back pretty quickly afterwards, with a nice Johnny Gaudreau pass getting buried by Sean Monahan to make it 1-1.
Shots were 12-12 in the first.
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Washington came out of the locker room in the second period seemingly bewildered that they were tied with Calgary. They shelled Brian Elliott for much of the period. For much of the period, Elliott made the first save and the Flames cleared it out. Unfortunately, the Capitals broke through late. T.J. Oshie finished off a really nice passing sequence involving Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to make it 2-1. Dougie Hamilton got nabbed in the final minute for tripping Ovechkin and Kevin Shattenkirk scored on the ensuing power play to make it 3-1. Shots were 20-6 Washington.
The Flames tried to get back into it in the third, eventually getting close after Troy Brouwer (!) finished off a really nice pass from Deryk Engelland (!) to make it 3-2.
Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Flames got. Mark Giordano got tossed in the penalty box for a puck over glass infraction and Ovechkin’s one-timer made it 4-2. Shots were 13-8 Flames.

WHY THE FLAMES LOST

Honestly? Washington’s just better and deeper. The Flames hung in there for the first half of the game, but Washington was just too good and too deep. The Flames took too many penalties, allowed too many power play goals and just couldn’t generate nearly enough five on five to make up for it.
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Silver lining? This was a game they were reasonably expected to lose, and could’ve gotten blown out in given they were short two key players. They hung in there, which is almost like a victory. Almost.

THE TURNING POINT

Goals in the final minute of a period are awful to give up. Shattenkirk’s power play marker made it 3-1 and gave the Capitals a ton of breathing room heading into the final 20 minutes.

RED WARRIOR

Elliott held ’em in, bless his heart. He was easily the best Flames player, though the usual suspects (Backlund, Frolik, D.Hamilton, Giordano) were also pretty good. Also surprisingly good? Sam Bennett, whose performance suggests that maybe it’s his regular linemates that are causing his bad underlyings this season. (Looking at you, Troy.)
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THE NUMBERS

(Percentage stats are even strength. Game score is overall. Data via Natural Stat Trick.)
Player
Corsi
For%
O-Zone
Start%
Game
Score
Bennett
70.3
20.0
0.950
Frolik
70.0
16.7
1.250
D.Hamilton
68.2
12.5
1.025
Giordano
68.2
14.3
1.050
Backlund
65.9
16.7
0.700
Chiasson
50.0
70.0
0.775
Gaudreau
47.4
60.0
0.800
Monahan
47.4
60.0
0.895
Brodie
45.5
66.7
0.075
Stone
43.8
72.7
-0.375
Versteeg
42.9
33.3
0.770
Brouwer
41.7
37.5
0.625
Stajan
38.1
42.9
-0.205
Engelland
31.4
25.0
0.350
Bartkowski
30.3
25.0
-0.650
F.Hamilton
27.3
25.0
-0.165
Lazar
15.4
25.0
-0.600
Bouma
15.4
40.0
-0.525
Elliott
0.600

THIS AND THAT

MAGIC NUMBERS

Stick-tap to our pal (and yours) Pat Steinberg for busting out the slide-ruler to do the initial calculations on these!
The Flames magic number to clinch a playoff spot began the night at 5. They lost, so that number doesn’t change.

UP NEXT

The Flames (41-28-4) are off to Nashville! They practice tomorrow, then play the Predators on Thursday night.
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