After being shutout twice in their first three games, the Flames dormant offence finally broke through tonight with 46 shots on goal against the Oilers, led by the new and improved first line of Alex Tanguay, Matt Stajan, and Jarome Iginla, who scored a combined total of eight points tonight (3G, 5A). Things got off to a bit of a shaky start when Ales Hemsky scored five minutes when he capitalized on a miscommunication between Kiprusoff and Ian White, firing a backhand into an open net. Alex Tanguay tied the game at one four minutes later with a nice move, going five-hole on Khabibulin after being sprung on a partial breakaway by a nice feed from Stajan, and the Flames made it to the first intermission tied at ones after doubling up on the Oil on the shot clock by a count of 10-5.
When Dustin Penner's shot hit Ian White dangerously close to the eye area, changing direction and fooling Kiprusoff just 0:22 seconds into the middle frame, it looked as though it was going to be one of those nights for the Flames, but the local boys, seemingly invincible in their retro jerseys, fought back to tie the game on two more occasions. Morrison's goal-mouth scramble tally evened things up at two before the game was three minutes old, and Niklas Hagman's second-effort wrister 4:30 into the third atoned for an earlier goal of the garbage variety by Magnus Paajarvi, the first of his young NHL career. The Flames took control of the game once and for all when Jarome Iginla's powerplay marker found the back of the net for his first of the year, after the Captain fired a team-high eight shots on net, tied with Curtis Glencross, although that count seems a little high. Alex Tanguay added an empty-net tally for his second goal of the game with just 0.4 seconds remaining, as the Flames would outshoot the Oilers 18-10 in the final frame.
You got the feeling that the first line would break through eventually after scoring zero points on 29 shots through three games, however this evening's effort was different in that Iggy and Co. dominated in terms of possession for the first time in recent memory, finishing the game with a combined +31 Corsi while going up against Hemsky, Penner, and Gagner for the majority of their minutes. The Flames' fourth line, however, was a different story; Conroy, Sutter, and Meyer all failed to register a single shot on goal and finished in the red in terms of Corsi, as did Steve Staios. Not horribly so, to be fair, but it's always slightly concerning when your fourth line is getting out-chanced by similar quality opposition. The second-line trio of Hagman, Jokinen, and Morrison also managed to finish the evening on the negative side of things, despite scoring a combined four points and firing a total of ten shots Khabibulin's way.
Staios played the least of any Flames defenceman, clocking in at 15:22, which I won't hesitate to say is the way it should be, with or without T.J. Brodie in the lineup. I think most people who watched tonight's game were pleasantly surprised by the effort of Cory Sarich, who assisted on Morrison's second period goal and led all Flames defencemen in the Corsi department, finishing the evening +18. If I'm not mistaken, I noticed him on the ice with Bouwmeester probably about halfway through the game, but it may have been during a penalty kill. Speaking of which, the fact that the Flames managed to limit Edmonton to only two shots on four powerplay opportunities is not a small feat; ten of Calgary's 36 shots came with the man advantage.
Overall, this game was a little more open-ended and not as defensively sound as I would have liked, but the Flames never quit. They fired almost fifty shots at Khabibulin, demonstrated a much greater proficiency at gaining the offensive zone and generating sustained pressure, and the top line was dominant--you have to give credit where credit is due. I take these results with something of a grain of salt because, well, it is the Oilers, but the team turned in a commendable performance, especially after Thursday's odious loss. Nevertheless, there are still improvements to be made. On to the next one, as the Flames hit the road for three games beginning on Tuesday in Nashville.