The Flames kicked off their four-game swing through the Eastern Conference with a 'W' against a struggling Senators club last night in what was far from their strongest game of the season, but a much-needed victory nonetheless after four consecutive losses.
The first period was fairly nondescript for the Flames, who surrendered two powerplays that largely contributed to the Senators' advantage in shots and scoring chances. The visitors would kill off both opportunities, however, and emerge from the opening frame unscathed.
The second period was where the Flames broke out, amidst a parade of alternating trips to the penalty box. David Moss got his team on the board at 5:32 of the middle frame and would add another just overt two minutes later to give the Flames a 2-0 lead. Ales Kotalik would score what turned out to be the game winning goal after a scramble in front of the Sens net on a powerplay with just seventeen-seconds remaining in the period. The Flames got the better of their opponents in both shots and scoring chances in the middle frame, narrowly edging Ottawa in total scoring chances after forty.
The Flames would sit back in the third period, giving the Sens a chance to get back into the game after Nick Foligno scored his seventh of the season at 8:56 and Milan Michalek added a late one with under a minute remaining to bring the home team to within one. Ottawa outshot and out-chanced the visitors by a fair margin in the final frame as they pushed for the loser point, but to no avail, as Henrik Karlsson would make 33 saves to backstop his team to victory for the third time this season.
This game easily could have gotten away from the Flames while they were down a man, but their penalty killers were very strong in this game, killing off all five Ottawa powerplays and limiting them to just six shots with the extra man, all of which Karlsson stopped. Including Kotalik's PP goal, the Flames had four scoring chances with the extra man and surrendered none. The visitors were largely beaten at even strength tonight, which has not been the case in some of their most recent losses, but they out-dueled the Sens on special teams, something that has been a rarity this season.
This was another game where the Flames' bottom-six shone, as Tim Jackman and David Moss were the only Flames forwards to finish in the black in scoring chances at EV while Glencross, Stajan, and Kotalik were all even. Similarly, Moss, Iginla, and Morrison were the only Flames to finish on the positive side of things possession-wise after the Senators spent the majority of the second and third periods chasing.
On the defensive side of things, the bottom two pairings that I was a little nervous about in the Game Thread actually didn't fare too badly last night. Anton Babchuk finished the game with two assists and was +12 in terms of possession while himself, Adam Pardy, and Cory Sarich all finished in the black in scoring chance differential at EV, with the latter two spending a significant amount of time on the penalty kill (and in Pardy's case, in the box). Pardy's 23:04 of ice time has to be close to a career-high for the former sixth-round pick, which is always good to see. Brendan Mikkelson was solid in his first game back with the team since being re-called from the Heat, finishing +6 in Corsi and even in scoring chances at EV.
The Flames don't have much time to revel in their victory, as they're back at it tonight against the Leafs in Toronto looking to steal both games from the Blue and White this season.