The Flames made it back into the win column with a 3-1 victory in their home opener last night, taking advantage of a tired Kings squad with rookie goalie Jonathan Bernier in net, who stopped 29 of 31 Calgary shots in the loss. The two points came at a cost, however, as both Adam Pardy and Rene Bourque left the game with injuries in the first period and didn't return. Pardy fell awkwardly following a collision and immediately headed to the room favouring his shoulder, while Bourque was attended to by team trainers after taking a high hit from LA's Kevin Westgarth; both will be re-evaluated today.
A scoreless first period where each team took two minors saw the Flames head to the dressing room with a 12-8 advantage on the shot clock. That would change when the Flames gained the lead for the first time in this young season courtesy of Curtis Glencross' fine shorthanded handywork. Hanging back in the neutral zone, Glencross received a pass from Brett Sutter (whom he affectionately refers to as "Suttsie," by the way) after Jack Johnson flubbed a pass just inside the Flames' blueline, and away he went, deking out Bernier at the last second to slide the puck home for his and the team's first goal of the season. The Flames would add to their lead just 1:20 into the third period; Craig Conroy, who was a healthy scratch in Thursday's loss to Edmonton, scored in his first game of the season when his shot from just inside the offensive blueline which deflected off the stick of a King's player and went top-shelf on Bernier to put the Flames up 2-0. It must have been a nice feeling for the 39-year-old, who entered the season on a two-way contract, unsure of his position with the team after Stefan Meyer made the final roster and Sutter added free agent centre Brendan Morrison, only three years his junior, at the last minute to compensate for injuries.
Things would stay that way until the final minutes, when Dustin Brown scored at 5:40 to bring the Kings to within one. The comeback never really had legs though, as the Flames outshot their visitors 14-7 in the final frame and Niklas Hagman added an empty net goal for insurance on a late powerplay. Kiprusoff made 21 saves for the win, and faced an easier workload than in the team's first game. I actually missed the game due to family commitments, but here are a few thoughts gleaned from the boxscore and game summary:
- I know the value of real-time stats is debated here and everywhere around the hockey blogosphere, but Iginla led the team in hits last night with three, something we rarely see from the Captain these days.
- Saturday's special teams focussed practice appears to have paid off, at least in the short term, as the Kings went 0-3 on the powerplay, generating only one shot on net, while the Flames scored once while shorthanded and once on a powerplay, albeit into an empty net.
- I fail to understand why Alex Tanguay is killing penalties, like, at all. He also had the least PP time of any top-line forward at 3:29, while Iginla had the most at 5:11.
- The Flames rolled with five defencemen after Pardy left the game, and T.J. Brodie still got the least powerplay time of any defencemen not named Robyn Regehr. 3:22 is nothing to sneeze at, but Bouwmeester played almost six minutes with the man advantage, with Gio clocking in at just over five. I wonder if the coaching staff is aiming to up Bo's PP time hoping that his point production will follow...
- A commenter over at FlamesNation mentioned how Backlund's ice time was slipping and the 21-year-old found himself demoted to the fourth line last night after Bourque's injury. Mikael played only 8:39 at EV last night, despite seeing more time on the powerplay, and was +1 with two shots on goal. It's early days yet, but one wonders if he will remain with the big club when the likes of Stajan and Moss return to the lineup if he doesn't pick up the pace. After spending a good chunk of time on the PK in Thursday's loss, he saw only 0:32 of SH icetime in last night's game. It seems the coaching staff is trying him out in a few different roles with the injuries the team has suffered, trying to find one that he can succeed in. I think he just needs time; maybe in Abbotsford, maybe in Calgary.
- Olli Jokinen had the most ice time of any Flames forward at 21:09 and generated six shots on goal, but from what I've gathered, still failed to make much of an impact. Glencross and Jackman followed with five and four shots, respectively.