The Flames emerged on the winning side of a battle between two teams on a roll tonight with a 3-1 victory over Nashville Predators in which they scored twice(!) with the man advantage. It's a backwards world we live in these days.
The home side got the ball rolling in the right direction with an early powerplay and built up a little momentum from there, drawing another penalty just five minutes later. Curtis Glencross would strike first to give the Flames a 1-0 lead when his shot from the side of the net bounced of Rinne and trickled in. The Flames would hold on to the lead after twenty minutes despite a late push from the Preds on the powerplay with Mark Giordano off for slashing.
The Flames would build off a strong first period in the middle frame, taking advantage of some more undisciplined play by Nashville to pad their advantage on the shot clock, holding an 8-1 lead in that department at one point. After a flurry of chances for the home side, the Preds would tie it up on somewhat of a miscue by Kiprusoff, who dished the puck to a Nashville player and couldn't quite make it back into his net before David Legwand swatted it home. The Flames would bounce back, however, as Iginla found himself alone at the side of the Preds net with all the time and space in the world, beating Rinne for his 21st of the season to give his team back the lead. The second period would end that way despite a late penalty to Jay Bouwmeester, with the Flames outshooting their visitors 14-7.
The final frame belonged to the Predators, with the visiting team making a solid push for the equalizer, limiting their hosts to just five shots in the period. The Flames would manage to capitalize on a late powerplay when Brendan Morrison scored his third goal in his past three games to put his team up by two, thus sealing the victory for the home team.
After two games of mostly so-so hockey, the Flames came through for much of the game tonight. They out-played the Preds at even strength through forty minutes and were able to make their chances count against a hot goalie, taking advantage of some undisciplined play by Nashville and limiting the chances they did get largely to the perimeter. The home side's special teams units continued to shine on this night, killing off all five Predators powerplays while holding them to just two shots at 5 v. 4 and scoring twice with the man advantage. While success at even strength is often the best indicator of a good team, it's nice to see the Flames make the most of their opportunities on special teams; it doesn't happen all that often.
Kiprusoff continued to build off of his strong play from Saturday night's win over the Canucks, and aside from one blip on Nashville's goal, he was very solid in this game, making 23 saves to preserve the 'W' for his team. The 34-year old appears to have recovered from his mid-season slump, quelling the boo-birds for the time being. On the back end, Adam Pardy had another good game tonight, making several nice plays in his own end to settle things down when Nashville was pressing as well as spending 3:46 of his 18:33 minutes of ice time on the penalty kill.
Despite their lack of ice time, I like what I saw from the fourth line again tonight. Mikael Backlund was buzzing around the offensive zone all evening and finished tied for the team lead in shots on goal with four. He was also out for a few shifts with Jarome Iginla in the third period, if I'm not mistaken. The line of Curtis Glencross, Matt Stajan, and Niklas Hagman was also on tonight, as Matt Stajan finally converted his positive underlying numbers of late into some offence, finishing the evening with two assists despite the fact that a bad third period caused the trio to finish underwater in both chances and possession.Stajan also spent 4:03 on the penalty kill, something of a new role for the centre.
Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, and Brendan Morrison took advantage of a depleted Preds lineup to combine for four points on the night, finishing +4 in chances at EV and +15 overall. No Flames forward was on the ice for a disproportionate number of defensive zone draws tonight, with the assignments getting distributed fairly evenly by Brent Sutter and Co. in this game.
The Flames will enjoy a day off tomorrow before looking for their fourth consecutive victory against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday in their final game before the All Star break.