It's the one week-iversary of our revamping here at Matchsticks & Gasoline, and I just wanted to say thanks to everybody who's been here reading, jumping into game threads, and offering words of encouragement on Twitter and elsewhere. I'm having a great time so far and I hope everyone else on the masthead agrees when I say we're pretty happy with how things are going.
I think we're all pretty damn happy with how that game went tonight, too—Calgary finally pulled out a really great game, handed Karri Ramo his first NHL shutout (!!!) and in the absence of concussed Mike Cammalleri, Mikael Backlund wore the A, you guys.
The first period stayed scoreless throughout, but the Flames dominated the action, outshooting the Hurricanes 14-5 and creating a flurry of activity in the offensive zone. After 20 they'd won about two-thirds of the faceoffs and had managed nine blocked shots—a really good, active period for a team that had been lethargic for a long time.
Barely 90 seconds into the second period, Brett Bellemore hassled Jiri Hudler which led to a bit of a scuffle; Shane O'Brien stepped in to shore up and both Bellemore and O'Brien ended up getting two minutes in the box. Shortly afterward, one of the refs undoubtedly saw his life flashing before his eyes as Andrej Sekera knocked him over and Hudler and Manny Malhotra got all up in his business:
On a related note, I totally forgot Manny Malhotra was a Hurricane.
The Canes totally dominated for a brief period when the Flames' scintillating fourth line was on the ice (consisting of Brian McGrattan, Ben Street and Kevin Westgarth). It was nearly a disaster for Calgary but Karri Ramo and some quick defence kept the Flames from giving up a goal. A power play followed for Calgary on a hooking call against Patrick Dwyer, and then the magic happened: Hudler maneuvered the puck around and passed it back to Wideman, who quickly returned it. Hudler looked like he meant to pass it across the net to Mark Giordano waiting on the other side, but it tipped off Backlund's skate and he poked it past right Anton Khudobin in the five hole for the Flames' first goal. Shots favoured Calgary 20-17 at the end of the second.
It was the Flames' 15th time this season taking a lead into the third period—not many times, considering it's the second half of the season. Halfway through the third that lead would be doubled. T.J. Galiardi gained possession in the Flames end and took off down the ice with Byron and Monahan racing alongside (from the overhead camera it looked like Monahan was very nearly offside); past the blue line he fired a pass to Byron, who tipped it to Monahan, gliding beside a wide-open net. Bam! 2-0.
The Flames made a few great defensive plays on Jeff Skinner late in the third to preserve their lead. During their offensive action Carolina tried to pull Khudobin, but he had barely made it to the bench when he was forced to race back; the Byron-Monahan-Colborne line, on fire tonight, had forced their way back into the Carolina end and very nearly scored a third goal. They managed to pull him shortly afterward, though, and poor Lee Stempniak hit the post as squarely as one can hit it on the empty net. His time is coming, it's coming ...
Karri Ramo made a wild save in the dying seconds to preserve his first-ever shutout in the NHL, earning him the hard hat for the evening and the probable starter position for the Flames' visit to Nashville tomorrow. It was a terrific performance that saw him make 23 saves, including a handful of highlight reel moments. And it was fun! The whole time!
- The Canes have the most shorthanded goals in the league, so the Flames did a great job keeping the pressure on when they had a powerplay, continuing to generate shots and keep the puck out of their own zone.
- The Byron-Monahan-Colborne line was flat-out awesome. The fourth line wasn't, but what do you expect from McGrattan and Westgarth.
- Calgary is now 9-5-2 when they score first.
- The Canes have the lowest number of fighting majors in the league, which helped this game end up being much more fun to watch—more skating, less stoppage. I think Calgary looked great here without bothering to get too scrappy (they were still physical and laid down a lot of hits, but kept the action moving, which was a welcome change from the last few stinkers).
- Monahan is currently 11th in rookie scoring with 13 goals and 6 assists.
(sparkles by Ari!)
That was a good one, Flames. Thanks.
Next game action happens tomorrow night against the Predators; puck drops at 6:00 MT! Be sure to drop in during the day for our game previews and chat.