The Flames finally busted out of their winless streak on their five-game road trip with a much needed 3-2 shootout victory over the high-scoring Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon at the Wachovia Spectrum. It wasn't the prettiest two points, as the Flames were outshot 36-30, had the benefit of a disallowed Flyers goal in overtime, and relied on Kiprusoff to make several big stops, but it was well-deserved, and at this point we're hardly in a position to complain about a win.After a scoreless first period in which the Flames were outshot 11-9, they found themselves in a hole early in the second when Nikolay Zherdev's wrist shot beat Kiprusoff just three minutes into the middle frame. The visitors would tie things up with just under six minutes to go on a shorthanded marker by Curtis Glencross, but the Flyers would regain the lead just minutes later on James van Riemsdyk's third of the season. The second period would end with the Flyers leading 2-1 and with a 13-8 advantage on the shot clock.
An unlikely hero tied the game for Calgary at around the seven minute mark of the final frame when Steve Staios jumped into an odd-man rush with Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla and fired home a pass from the former for his first of the season. The Flames owned the edge in shots in the third period, but to no avail--the Flames would need more than sixty minutes to determine the outcome for the second straight game.
The Flyers would dominate the OT period, outshooting their visitors 4-1 after Mark Giordano was sent off for holding the stick, but the Flames found themselves on the receiving end of a lucky break for once when what would have been the game winner for the Flyers was called off, and Chris Pronger was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for waving his hand in the face of Miikka Kiprusoff, impeding his vision. The game would go to a shootout where things would continue to go Calgary's way. After Claude Giroux scored to put the Flyers up 1-0 and Tanguay missed, Daniel Briere hit the post. Niklas Hagman and Rene Bourque would score in succession to give the Flames a long-awaited 'W.'
This feels wrong to say, but I've been pleasantly surprised about the play of Steve Staios over the course of the past two games, and not just because he scored the game-tying goal tonight. He's been on the plus side of the scoring chance differential in both games (+2 this afternoon) and has been in the black in Corsi. The Flames as a whole have played decently well in both games, but as a player who can somehow manage to find himself on the wrong side of things even in a good game, it's been a nice change of pace for the Steady One. He's being throwing a few hits and blocking some shots as well, something that is cause for concern at his fragile old age but is still nice to see nonetheless.
Mikael Backlund saw some time on the top line with Iginla and Tanguay tonight, and they did very well for themselves against fairly tough competition. Iggy and Tangs saw a bit more of Richards and Co. than Backlund did, but van Riemsdyk and Giroux aren't exactly soft opposition either. The line was a combined +10 in scoring chance differential at EV and in Corsi, and Backlund had four shots on goal despite being the only player on the line held without a point. He played a little less this afternoon than he has since Stajan went down, but it's good to see him getting the opportunity to play tough minutes at the NHL level and succeeding, albeit with probably the best linemates he could have on this team. He still has a pretty favourable ZoneStart (58%), but he's being coddled less, which is encouraging.
Jokinen had six shots on goal tonight and was +5 in Corsi, yet somehow managed to end up -2 on the night and in the red, however marginally, in terms of chance differential. He's had his chances since he's returned from his suspension, but has yet to make any real impact, as seen by his demotion in Wednesday's game and his being bumped off the first line in Stajan's absence.
The Flames won because they were better on special teams despite multiple trips to the sin bin, they kept up with a very good EV team in the Flyers, and had a little luck go their way for the first time in a couple games. They stuck around and stayed with their game despite twice finding themselves down by one, and Kipper came through when needed, making a few huge stops to give the Flames a chance to win. Whether we see a continuation of any of these trends tomorrow morning against Crosby and the surging Penguins is anyone's guess, especially on the second half of a back-to-back, but we know it's possible, which has to be worth something, right?
Have a great weekend everyone, see you bright and early again tomorrow morning! You can thank Mr. Bettman for that one.