Building off the momentum of a slump-busting shootout win against the Stars last Thursday, the Flames took the wood to the Sabres tonight after a shaky first period with a 5-2 victory at the 'Dome.
The opening frame was somewhat lethargic for both teams, but saw the Sabres emerge with the advantage. The Flames killed off two Buffalo powerplays but couldn't generate much in the way of chances at the other end of the ice, as the Sabres would head to the first intermission with a 1-0 lead and an edge in shots and scoring chances, which were 7-4 in favour of the visitors after twenty minutes of play.
The Flames began to turn the tide early in the second when Olli Jokinen scored off a Robyn Regehr rebound to tie the game up at one just two and a half minutes into the middle frame. The home side would out-chance and out-shoot the Sabres through the rest of the period, and it would finally pay off when Jarome Iginla accepted a swell feed from Alex Tanguay after some intense pressure by the Sabres, going in alone on Ryan Miller and finding the twine with his 15th of the season to give the Flames their first lead of the game.
The Flames would strike again early in the third when former Sabre Ales Kotalik beat Miller for his first of the season. David Moss would add another just over four minutes later to give the Flames a three-goal cushion, which would prove valuable in the dying minutes of the game when Patrick Kaleta scored to bring Buffalo within two following a Sabres powerplay. Buffalo would keep the pressure on until they ran into some penalty trouble following a scrum behind the Flames net, and the Flames would seal their second consecutive victory when Tom Kostopoulos scored on a Calgary 5-on-3 with just one second remaining in the game. The Flames did a good job of pushing the puck forward and limited Buffalo's chances in the final frame, as the Sabres recorded just one scoring chance in the last twenty minutes of play.
After initially collecting what would have been his 499th career assist on Jokinen's tying goal, the helper was taken away from Iginla and given to Tanguay, but although Iggy remains in search of #500, but he still had himself a pretty decent game, out-chancing his opposition 8-5 at EV and finishing +3 in Corsi. The line was a combined +8 and +11 respectively, although they weren't exactly playing against the cream of the crop, facing a mish-mash of the Sabres' first and second lines, decimated by injuries to Derek Roy and Tim Connolly.
Apart from the Kotalik goal, it was a fairly disappointing night for himself and linemate Matt Stajan, both of whom finished in the red in scoring chances and Corsi. Stajan has been awful lately and tonight was no exception, and he's seeing a decline in his ice time in accordance with his performance--he played just 10:23 tonight after seeing 15 minutes against the Stars. Niklas Hagman was easily the best of the three, generating a few very good scoring chances in the second period prior to Iginla's goal, but he too found himself underwater in terms of Corsi.
Another player that is starting to draw some negative attention is Rene Bourque. Apart from his bone-headed hooking penalty in the offensive zone at just over the halfway point of the second period when the game was still tied, the only other time I noticed him tonight was when, in possession of the puck along the boards in the Sabres' zone, he was promptly stripped of the disk and dumped on his behind. Bourque continues to search for consistency after scoring a career-high 27 goals last season, but his recent streak of near invisibility has some pondering if the once hard-hitting forward is battling injury. He finished even in scoring chances tonight and slightly underwater in Corsi, alongside his linemates, but seemed to have the least impact of the three on this evening's proceedings.
Anyways, a win is a positive thing which means I should be focussing on just that. The Flames bounced back from a lack-luster opening period and were persistent in the second when things weren't exactly going their way, and they finally broke through. They out-shot and out-chanced their opponent for the second consecutive game (both wins), and, with the exception of finding themselves hemmed in their own zone on a few occasions, kept the pressure on the Sabres when they were chasing. The home team overcame an early deficit and capitalized against an injury-ravaged team that they should have beaten, getting offence from three of four lines (and the blueline) in the process--a well-played game and a well deserved victory.
The Flames are now off until New Year's Eve, when they look for their third straight 'W' against the rival Colorado Avalanche at home.