The Other Side: Defending Big D
It was one of those first periods that appeared to be too good to be true for the Flames as they found themselves up 3-0 on goals by Rene Bourque, Tom Kostopoulos, and Anton Babchuk before the game was fifteen minutes old--and it was. After some shaky-looking play at times in the opening frame when Jamie Benn made it 3-1 on a late powerplay goal, the Flames outright folded in the second period.
Mike Ribeiro brought the Stars to within one just 5:12 into the middle frame, and it would be all Starts from that point forward, as Dallas would out-shoot their hosts 15-4 in a scrambly second period, but a series of spectacular stops by Miikka Kiprusoff kept the Stars down by one heading into the final frame.
In the third, Dallas would continue to throw everything they had at the Flames' keeper--and he was finally beaten at 5:39 of the final frame when a Tomas Vincour shot took him by surprise for the Czech forward's first career NHL goal. The Flames would kill off a late Dallas powerplay when Cory Sarich was assessed a boarding penalty at 17:32, during which Kiprusoff made two more enormous saves to preserve the tie, and the two teams headed to OT locked in a 3-3 tie.
The Flames would do their best to make the most of the extra frame with several good scoring chances, outshooting the Stars 7-2 in the five-minute period, but Kari Lehtonen was up to the task, and this contest would be extended to a shootout, where Alex Tanguay would give the Flames a 1-0 lead before Rebeiro scored a beauty for the Stars on their last shot to even things up. But Curtis Glencross would be the hero in this one, scoring on the Flames' final attempt to give his team the bittersweet 4-3 victory.
It's always great to get the 'W', but the Flames were the worse of the two teams for 40+ minutes tonight; granted the Stars were chasing for most of the evening, but three goals should have been more than enough to win this game and they blew it. This contest never should have needed a shootout, and now--although the two points vault them into fifth place in the Conference--the victory doesn't really count in the grand scheme of things, where the post-season picture is concerned.
Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, and David Moss were the only Flames forwards to finish in the black in terms of possession tonight, and I thought Hagman and Stajan were particularly good in this game. Both were -1 and played under 15 minutes of ice time, but Stajan had four shots on net--which has to be the most he's had in some time--and nearly beat Lehtonen in the extra frame. Moss had another very solid evening, finishing +2 with three shots on net in just over seventeen minutes on the ice.
Most defenders managed to finish on the positive side of the ledger where Corsi is concerned, with Bouwmeester and Regehr taking on the brunt of it as usual. Mark Giordano played the second most of all Flames blueliners just behind J-Bo, while Anton Babchuk turned in another impressive performance with a goal and a couple nice defensive plays to his credit as the clock wound down. He also saw nearly as much time on the PK as he did with the man advantage, a rarity for the Ukrainian with the big shot.
As for Kiprusoff, he probably would have liked to have at least one of the goals he allowed tonight back, but I think the saves he made in the dying minutes of the third period and his two shootout stops more than make up for that. He may not be an "elite" goalie anymore, but his endurance is incredible and he gives his team a chance to win night in and night out, which is really all you can ask of a goalie--especially a 34-year old playing in his 21st consecutive start. This would be a very different write-up if it weren't for him.
The Flames are in Phoenix tomorrow night to take on the embattled Coyotes, who fell in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks yesterday and currently sit two points behind the Flames in eighth place in the West.