The Flames came into this game knowing that they had to bounce back from a tough shootout loss against an opponent breathing down their necks, and that they did with a very solid effort and a well-deserved 3-1 victory over the defending champs.
The first period was played mostly at even strength and saw the Flames really begin to tilt the ice in their favour, out-shooting the Hawks 10-3 in the opening frame. The home side got on the board at 14:33 when Mikael Backlund scored a beauty on the backhand after accepting a nice pass from former WHL rival Lance Bouma--Backlund's second goal in his past three games and Bouma's first NHL point. The Flames would lead 1-0 after one, out-chancing the Hawks 7-5.
It wouldn't take long for the Blackhawks to even things up in the middle frame, as Patrick Kane was left wide open in the slot to fire his fifteenth of the season past a helpless Kiprusoff. The Flames would get into some penalty trouble after that, as Cory Sarich and Robyn Regehr would make consecutive trips to the sin bin, but the home side would weather the storm. After the Flames failed to score on a late powerplay, the period would conclude with the two teams deadlocked at one.
The 'Hawks would start the third period on the powerplay thanks to another Cory Sarich minor, but the Flames would kill it off, and began to turn the tide with some chances of their own before Curtis Glencross scored off an Olli Jokinen pass to give the home team a 2-1 lead. The 'Hawks would go right back to the powerplay following the goal with Alex Tanguay off for holding the stick, but to no avail, as the Flames' penalty killers were again flawless against the league's best PP.
The Flames failed to take advantage of two powerplays of their own later on in the game to put it out of reach, but they survived a late Blackhawks barrage nonetheless, with Rene Bourque icing it with an empty netter, his first goal in nine games. The visitors beat the Flames on the shot clock and in the scoring chance count in the final frame as a result of pushing for the equalizer for the better part of the period, but the Flames played a very solid game and were visibly the better team for forty minutes tonight, which wasn't necessarily the case in some games during their streak.
There is some bad news for the Flames on this night, however, as they lost Adam Pardy to an "upper body injury." In a perfect world, the Flames would call up T.J. Brodie in his absence, but it probably just means Staios will play. Le sigh.
Bouma and Backlund both saw a small increase in their respective ice time tonight, and it was well deserved. The pair was on all game despite finishing underwater in scoring chances and possession, and Brent Sutter even had Bouma out there in the final minute when Chicago was pushing. Tom Kostopoulos continues to play more than both of them at ES, and he had the worse underlying numbers of the trio--finishing the game -3 in scoring chance differential and -6 in Corsi. Iginla, Morrison/Jokinen, and Tanguay were again given the most defensive zone draws of all forwards by Sutter, but managed to keep their heads above water in scoring chances at EV against a decent group of forwards.
Rene Bourque had a much better outing tonight, playing on the third line with Stajan and Jackman. He only had two shots on goal tonight but saw an increase in his special teams TOI and played more than both of his linemates. If finding the back of the net in any way is what he needs to get back on track, then so be it.
With the win tonight, the Flames have finally clawed their way back into the top eight. With the closeness of the Western Conference, it might not last long, but at least the team is in control of their own fate now, so to speak. The team will have to continue to take advantage of their opportunities to create breathing room when they get them, and Wednesday's game against the Ottawa Senators--a team that has dropped down to 28th overall in the league--is just that.