Last night's game wasn't a lot of things--'pretty' and 'convincing' are two that immediately come to mind--but in it we saw the type of never-say-die attitude we've been expecting from the Flames in the stretch drive, and it resulted in two points. They did what they had to do to win against a far inferior Oilers team that never should have had much of a chance in this one, and eventually came out on top in a most bizarre fashion.
The first period would see the home team play with a decisive advantage over a deflated Flames squad coming off a bad beating in San Jose. The Oilers out-played their guests to the tune of 10-6 on the shot clock and 5-4 in the scoring chance count in the opening frame, and Magnus Paajarvi would capitalize with under five minutes remaining to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Jarome Iginla's 35th of the season on a powerplay at 8:22 of the second period would tie things up for the Flames, but Edmonton wasn't done there, and it would be less than a minute before they would retake the lead courtesy of Teemu Hartikainen's first career NHL goal. With under thirty-seconds remaining in the middle frame, Colin Fraser would score shorthanded to extend Edmonton's lead to two heading into the final twenty minutes.
The kick in the pants for the Flames didn't come until Ryan Jones put the Oilers up 4-1 with his 17th of the season just 3:31 into the third period, which was quickly answered by Iginla's second PP marker of the game two and a half minutes later to kick off the comeback for the visitors. Curtis Glencross would bring the Flames within one with his 23rd at 12:09, but in a fittingly bizarre twist of fate, former Oiler Steve Staios would be the hero in this one when he fired the game-tying goal past Devan Dubnyk with under two minutes remaining in the game.
After an uneventful overtime period where the Oilers were awarded not one but two powerplays, this contest would go to a shootout where it was Alex Tanguay once again providing the only offence for the Flames, who escaped with the 'W' when the Oilers' young guns misfired.
At any point in the season, barely escaping a game against the league's worst team with a shootout win would be discouraging, but the fact that the Flames are on the bubble with five games remaining in their season makes it even more so. Thanks to a combination of the teams in front of them playing well and having games in hand, it's already unlikely that the Flames will make the cut in the West, but their poor play over the course of the last seven or eight games has not helped their chances in the least. Losses in some of those games were expected, but in others this is a team that looked spent and disinterested, even before injuries began to take their toll.
Mikael Backlund played almost twenty minutes last night in his elevated role as first line centre, and even saw 3:15 of PP time, where he recorded an assist on Iginla's second goal. He finished the evening a -3, however, and was on the wrong end of the scoring chance count, but he did finish +4 in Corsi, probably as a result of the Flames chasing in the third period. It's unfortunate that the injury to Brendan Morrison force Backlund into a bigger role when he wasn't ready for it, but he's getting a taste of top-end competition now and doing the best he can; in the long run, it might ding his confidence a little but I can't see it really hurting his development going forward--it might even be beneficial.
As for the other rookies in Lance Bouma and Greg Nemisz, neither of them saw much ice last night; Bouma played 6:34 and Nemisz, 5:53. Matt Stajan was the only other player to play less than ten minutes, and all three finished the night in the red in scoring chances and Corsi. At the other end of it, Olli Jokinen had a decent outing as far as underlying numbers are concerned. He was one of the few Flames to finish in the black in scoring chances, was +5 in Corsi, and was on the ice for a team-leading eleven defensive zone draws last night while leading the team with four shots on goal and a +2 in 23:31 of ice time.
The fact that the Flames managed another shootout victory doesn't mean much in the Western Conference standings--especially because of the fact that they're now off until Wednesday when they play the Anaheim Ducks--but the fact that it was uninspired in nature when the team is still technically in the midst of a heated playoff race makes it mean even less to fans.