After a 3-2 victory over the Senators last night, the Flames came into Toronto tonight looking for the sweep of Ontario, and despite some moments where that appeared to be in doubt, they came away with the victory, getting help from some unlikely contributors in the process.
With the Leafs playing their first game back at the ACC after a lengthy road trip and the Flames playing the second of a back-to-back set, the first period was slow-paced and sluggish for both teams, ending in a scoreless tie despite the fact that the Flames appeared to have the early jump on their hosts, limiting them to just six shots in the opening frame.
The second period was much of the same, with the Flames carrying the play ever so slightly for the first half before the Leafs began to tilt the ice in their favour, generating some chances in the latter half of the frame. Despite trading powerplay opportunities, neither team found the back of the net and the game remained scoreless through forty minutes.
The third period was where things began to go awry for the Flames; after they took a 1-0 lead on Matt Stajan's third goal of the season off a goal-mouth scramble, it was essentially all Toronto. The Leafs outshot the Flames 18-7 in the final frame and applied relentless pressure in the game's final five minutes, generating seven consecutive scoring chances before Mikhail Grabovski scored with just thirteen seconds remaining and Ales Kotalik in the box for hooking.
The overtime period saw both teams trade chances despite the fact that the Flames enjoyed a powerplay in the extra frame. The game looked to be over for sure when Tyler Bozak went in alone on Miikka Kiprusoff on a shorthanded breakaway after Olli Jokinen bobbled the puck at the Leafs' blueline, but the Flames 'tender got a piece of the shot, and the game would go to a shootout. Bozak would redeem himself with a goal shortly thereafter to put give the Leafs the advantage, and after both Rene Bourque and Phil Kessel were stopped, Alex Tanguay scored a bit of a lucky one to tie things up for the Flames. Colby Armstrong would breathe some life into the Leafs when he beat Kiprusoff on Toronto's third attempt, but Ales Kotalik would score moments later to prolong the shootout. After Grabovski was stopped by a slick poke-check by Kipper, Olli Jokinen would score to put away the two points for the Flames.
Much like last night's game, this was a contest in which the Flames never completely dominated, although they were the better team for a good portion of the first forty minutes. While the fact that they essentially played the depleted Leafs to a draw is not exactly a ringing endorsement of their effort, they got the job done in the end, with three players that have regularly found themselves in the dog house this season coming through with contributions on the scoresheet.
It sure was nice to see Matt Stajan's celebration after scoring against his former team; after going 12 games without a goal, the forward has been putting up some decent underlying numbers recently. Before tonight, his SH% was one of the lowest amongst Flames forwards hovering in the 5% region, and he was certainly due for bounce or two to go his way. The Flames' bottom-half again carried the load in terms of possession, as the line of Hagman-Stajan-Glencross was a combined +13 in Corsi and Jackman and Backlund also out-duelling their opposition at ES, with the only minus player on that line being Ales Kotalik, who is temporarily forgiven for his shootout heroics.
On the defensive side of things, Adam Pardy had another strong game tonight and was also a physical force for the Flames. Pardy played 25:41 tonight with nearly 24 of those minutes coming at ES, the most of any Calgary defender. He did see his PK time reduced from last night with the load being shared by Giordano and Bouwmeester, who looked to be fighting it for again for the majority of this evening's contest. In net, Kiprusoff delivered a much better performance and definitely seemed more confident, coming out to challenge his shooter from the get-go. Not including the shootout, he was only faced with a few five-alarm chances, but he made the stops he needed to make when it appeared that one bad bounce could easily decide the outcome of the game.
With two consecutive wins and points in their past four games, the Flames are still motoring along at .500...for now.
The team is off tomorrow before taking on Mike Cammalleri and the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Monday.