Despite the result of this game and the fact that the Flames occasionally found themselves hemmed in in their own zone by the Canucks, I found this game to be, overall, the best they've probably played so far this season.
The Flames again proved that they can score on two pretty goals from Alex Tanguay and Mikael Backlund, coming back again from being down 2-0 in the second period. The second period was again the worst one for this team in terms of getting out-shot; after two early penalties by the visitors the Canucks capitalized with an even strength goal and a powerplay goal, but then the tables turned.
Vancouver went to the box three consecutive times, which overlapped enough to give the Flame some 5-on-3 time and the momentum needed to fuel their comeback. After Backlund's powerplay goal (assisted by Miikka Kiprusoff) tied the game at 16:03 of the second, the Flames managed to out-shoot the Canucks 14-7 in the third period and kept the pressure on for a decent portion of the final frame, also reducing the number of dangerous chances by Vancouver. Calgary also had a few chances in overtime before finally succumbing in the shootout after failed attempts by Jarome Iginla, Lee Stempniak, and Curtis Glencross.
The Flames managed 36 shots in this game, the most they've directed at an opposing goaltender all season, and while there is still room for improvement on defence, I was much more satisfied with their level of play in their own zone and in the neutral zone in the second half of the game. TJ Brodie was very good again even without Chris Butler in the lineup and up front, Backlund and Lee Stempniak were also good defensively, as was Matt Stajan. He and Stemps led the team on the penalty kill, playing over three minutes each shorthanded.
Sven Baertschi was good again and he'll get better with time, but sometimes he seems to get a little bit overwhelmed carrying the puck in the offensive zone and ends up losing it. He also got caught on the ice in one scenario where the Canucks had the Flames hemmed in their own zone, but for facing a pretty high quality opponent, he did quite well. I just wish Hartley would have used him in the shootout.
Kiprusoff was also much better in this game, making 34 saves on 36 shots but failing to stop some slick moves by Alex Burrows and Zack Kassian in the shootout, an area where he has always been somewhat sub-par. He'll need to be on his game when the Flames face the speedy and offensively talented young Oilers on Saturday night before a four-day break. The Flames take on the Colorado Avalanche on January 31st, perhaps we will see Leland Irving then--although a more realistic opportunity for him to start February 7th, in the middle of a three-game road trip against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
See you all Saturday for the fist Battle of Alberta of the season!