Faulty Saddledome ice delayed puck drop, but despite the awkward start, the Flames' night ended perfectly.
The opponent was a top 5 team in the league. The St. Louis Blues were the favourites coming in to tonight's game, especially due to the Flames' recent injuries to Curtis Glencross and Kris Russell, both key players. Still, once the ice was settled the Flames came out flying, and showed off two very impressive powerplays in the first period that ultimately came up fruitless.
This was in stark contrast to the Blues' own powerplay in the first frame, in which Shattenkirk snapped the puck past Reto Berra only eight seconds in.
Calgary was able to get on board in the second period with a powerplay marker of their own, featuring a through-the-crease pass by Mikael Backlund right to Jiri Hudler's stick. Halak got caught trying to slide across, and Hudler was able to bury it home to tie the game.
St. Louis took over almost immediately after. Two goals in 44 seconds by Schwartz and Paajarvi saw the Blues up 3-1, and might have been an indication of just how vast the talent difference is between these two clubs.
There's just no quit in the Flames, though. Backlund stepped up once again, and Paul Byron dished off a no-look pass from behind the net right onto Mike Cammalleri's stick to draw the Flames within one. Then, with fewer than two minutes to go, Hudler drew a penalty on Berglund. Sean Monahan just missed a wide open net - the Flames had a lot of just-misses this game - but Backlund won the ensuing faceoff. The puck got to Hudler, who was having a hard time getting it under control. With the clock ticking down, he dished it cross-ice to Mark Giordano, who buried it past Halak with just 4.2 seconds left in the game.
This sent the game to one of the most entertaining overtimes you'll probably see all year, marred only by Backes' knee-on-knee hit on Matt Stajan with just a minute to go in the extra frame. Stajan was forced to leave the game. The Flames were unable to capitalize on the powerplay, but won in the shootout as Joe Colborne scored the only goal.
- What a team, and what a finish. That overtime period is worth watching again, because it was a perfect example of just how hard the Flames are working this year. Absolutely nobody was giving up on the puck, and everyone who went out on the ice never stopped fighting for it and never stopped generating chances. This is far from the most talented team, but as long as they keep putting in efforts like that, they're going to remain really, really fun to watch. And hopefully these efforts continue as the rebuild progresses, because a more talented team with this much heart could be really dangerous. Outstanding game by the Flames.
- The Flames certainly weren't hurting for leadership when they lost Iginla. Giordano is pretty much the perfect captain: one goal, one assist, five shots, and a blocked shot all while leading his team with 26:28 in ice time. He's an incredible player just radiating leadership and it would be only beneficial to see him remain a Flame for a long, long time. Also he just seems like the best guy.
- Backlund continues to impress as well. He played over 20 minutes for the fifth game in a row, and is establishing himself as one of the team's top forwards. Two assists for the 24 year old centre tonight (probably should've been three), as well as six shots of his own. He's absolutely flying out there now and it's a treat to watch. Hopefully with his skill and enthusiasm he'll be a key part of the Flames' future, because it would certainly be a mistake to get rid of him now.
- Paul Byron requires waivers to be sent back to Abbotsford. Paul Byron is probably not going back to Abbotsford. The little guy looks like he's here to stay now, putting up a great performance while continuing to play on Backlund's line and, thereby, seeing some of the toughest competition. He was on the ice for 13 shots for and nine against, and this was while most frequently seeing the Blues' top line.
- Shane O'Brien saw a season high 16:57 against the Blues, and he actually looked pretty good out there. He came close to scoring, and was one of the guys you saw in overtime who just. would. not. give. up. on. the. puck. With Dennis Wideman still injured and Kris Russell out for a few weeks, he talked about having to step it up, and he sure showed it in this game.
- Reto Berra is now 3-0 in the shootout, and while the Blues didn't exactly have the most impressive shooters, he still stayed with them the whole way. The goalie exudes confidence in this setting. For that matter, so does Colborne, who has now scored on three of his four shootout attempts of the year. He's smart about it, too: while his previous goals have featured some pretty nice stick handling, this time he caught Halak completely off guard and just blasted it fivehole. These two still have areas they need to work on in their games, but they're extremely useful in the shootout.
- Hopefully Stajan's injury isn't as bad as it looked. He was furious after Backes hit his knee and was forced to leave the game. Since the Flames don't have any forwards to spare right now, there may be a recall or two from Abbotsford in the works on Friday.