Given that most of us came into last night's game expecting a blowout resembling Wednesday's loss on the second night of back-to-back games against the Vancouver Canucks on the road, a 4-3 shootout victory was a pleasant surprise, even if it wasn't wholly deserved. The Flames rode a strong performance by Miikka Kiprusoff and by their bottom six along with a little bit of puck luck to the 'W' despite being outplayed for a good portion of the game.
This game appeared to be following the typical storyline of a Flames/Canucks tilt when Vancouver took a 1-0 lead just over three and a half minutes in on a goal by Alexander Edler, but the Flames would prevent any further damage in the opening frame when former Canuck Brendan Morrison scored a powerplay goal just five minutes later to tie the game for the visitors. The Flames would find the back of the net again under a minute later when Curtis Glencross put his 11th of the season past Roberto Luongo to give his team the 2-1 lead. The opening frame would conclude that way, with the Canucks leading by a slim margin both on the shot clock and in the scoring chance count, but overall it was a pretty decent road period for the visitors.
The home team would make quick work of tying things up in the second period, as Edler put his second of the game past Kiprusoff just 1:13 in, and the Canucks would own the remainder of the middle frame, outshooting the Flames 18-13 and out-chancing them 8-4, enjoying two powerplays in the process.
The Flames would re-take the lead 6:42 into the final frame when Tim Jackman beat Luongo, adding to his career best goal total with his seventh of the season. The home team wouldn't go down that easy, however, as Ryan Kesler, a perpetual thorn in the side of the Flames (and everyone else, for that matter) scored shorthanded to tie things up at three under three minutes later. The Flames would survive the remainder of the third period, out-chancing the Canucks 6-3, and the game would go to overtime, where Vancouver would dominate the play, outshooting their visitors 7-1 in the extra frame en route to a shootout.
Vancouver's first shooter Jeff Tambelini would beat Kiprusoff to give the 'Nucks a 1-0 edge in the skills competition before Rene Bourque replied for the Flames. Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler were both stopped on their tries before Alex Tanguay's shot squeaked through Luongo's pads and stood up as the winner after a review, and the Flames escaped Rogers Arena with their second consecutive victory.
The Flames' ES play was suspect at times in this game, as they were out-shot 28-23 at evens and finished on the wrong end of things in terms of possession with the exception of Adam Pardy, Anton Babchuk, Matt Stajan, Curtis Glencross, and Niklas Hagman while Tim Jackman was even on the night. Glencross, Stajan, and Hagman actually saw a decent amount of the Sedins while Pardy and Babchuk were up against bottom sixers for the most part.
The fact that Iginla's line finished -11 in scoring chance differential at EV and -39 (!) in Corsi is a perfect example of why this team needs a viable power vs. power line that is capable of taking on first liners on an elite team and playing them to a draw at the least, although Bourque, Jokinen, Moss, Tanguay, Morrison, and surprisingly Iginla were all on the ice for more draws in the defensive zone than in the offensive zone. The majority of the time you're not going to win when your top scorers are buried/get outplayed that badly and you're relying on your third and fourth liners to outplay top quality competition. The Flames weren't terrible in this game, but they were a little lucky to get to get away with the extra point and a win is still a win by any measure--although it's debatable if that's what's best for the club at the moment.
The Flames' penalty kill continued its near-perfect streak last night, killing off all five Vancouver opportunities with the man advantage as Kiprusoff made ten saves on the PK. The Flames' special teams have been surprisingly competent lately aside from Kesler's shorthanded marker in last night's game, and the goaltending duo of Karlsson and Kiprusoff certainly deserves some credit for that. Kipper had a nice bounce-back game of sorts last night, making 41 saves for his first win since January 15th in Toronto, and hopefully he can keep the ball rolling tomorrow against Nashville, because this team isn't going to score seven or even three goals every night, and how well he plays is often the difference between a win and a loss.
The Flames take on the Predators at home tomorrow to kick off a two-game homestand before hitting the road for a set of games at the beginning of February.