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Flames 2, Blackhawks 1: Hiller stops 49 shots

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Jonas Hiller saw Chicago put 50 shots on goal. He stopped 49 of them for an overtime win in Chicago on Wednesday night.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The Blackhawks and Flames started out at 6:13 PM (Patrick) sharp and I was immediately impressed by just how much faster the Blackhawks seem than the Flames. Still the first good scoring chance went to the Flames when Devin Setoguchi broke in on the right wing and just missed a centering pass to Sean Monahan at the two minute mark.

The Blackhawks got their first power play with less than four minutes gone when Ladislav Smid flipped the puck into the crowd for a delay of game penalty. Chicago got three good chances to score, but the Flames managed to clear it out of the zone three times to match them. Mikael Backlund even managed to get a shorthanded shot on the net (which I couldn't later find in the shot count, hmmmm...).

At the six minute mark, Ben Smith and Daniel Carcillo broke into Calgary’s zone for a two-on-one break which looked like a sure thing. Jonas Hiller made an impressive lunging save to his right to save the puck at the last possible microsecond to keep the scoreboard untainted.

At the 8:18 mark, Ladislav Smid earned another two minute minor when he tripped Brandon Saad breaking toward the Calgary net. Chicago again got some really good chances, but didn’t manage to break the seal as the Flames repeatedly cleared the puck out of the zone. As the penalty expired, Paul Byron had a breakaway chance, beating Corey Crawford but getting foiled by the left crossbar.

With 12 minutes gone, the Flames committed their third penalty of the period when Brandon Bollig hooked David Rundblad. The Flames looked even better on their third chance to kill, clearing the puck three more times and not allowing Chicago a single shot on the net. Even so, the Flames were not generating any offense at all, managing just two shots through the entire period.

Stray thoughts & simple stats

Chicago is clearly the better team - but the Flames are playing hard enough to match them on the scoreboard. Calgary was all defense, going three-for-three on the penalty kill. Jonas Hiller saved all 18 of Chicago’s shot attempts.

The bottom line after period one is that no matter how obviously the Flames were outclassed on the offensive end of the ice, they are going to butter their bread this season with their defense. The penalty kill climbed from 61% to 69% in one period, and lets face it, it couldn’t have gotten much worse.

Shots-on-Goal: Let me reiterate. 18-to-2, Blackhawks. Niklas Hjalmarsson had four, Dan Carcillo and Brad Richards had three each. Mark Giordano and Brian McGrattan led the Flames with one shot each.

Faceoffs: Blackhawks, 13-to-7. Mikael Backlund has won five-of-12 to lead the Flames. Jonathan Toews is best on the Hawks with a 6-for-8 success rate.

Hits: Flames 7-to-3. Kris Russell has two, five Flames and three Hawks are tied for second with one each.

Blocked Shots: Flames 6-to-3. Raphael Diaz leads all players with two. Four Flames and three other Blackhawks are tied with one.

Everyone on Twitter should follow @BoringMonahan.


Second Period

Chicago didn’t take much time to get on their fourth man advantage of the evening, when TJ Brodie held Marian Hossa just 40 seconds into the period. The assault on Hiller, meanwhile, just kept picking up steam, with eight more shots on goal in just the first five minutes. At that pace, he’ll finish the game with a 62-save shutout. Calgary didn’t have any until the 5:02 mark - amazingly, by Brian McGrattan, his second and the Flames third.

Johnny Gaudreau nearly put the puck on the net halfway through the period, but pulled it just wide left, and did not get a shot on goal.

At the 11-minute mark, the Flames broke out of the zone after a Travis Bickell whiff on the puck. After bouncing it around the zone for a bit, the play was whistled dead. Off the ensuing faceoff, Dennis Wideman wired one home from the blue line to finally open the scoring at the 11:55 mark. Joe Colborne earned his fifth assist of the season just for winning the faceoff. Hey, whatever it takes, man!

Patrick Sharp almost got one past Hiller with 13 minutes gone, but just almost. Matt Stajan hit Jonathan Toews but good against the board a minute later, followed by a well timed block by a perfectly placed Wideman.

Speaking of Wideman being in position, he was again in the right place at the right time when Marcus Kruger interfered with him right next to the Flames’ goal for the first man advantage of the evening for Calgary just two minutes later. The Flames allowed as many scoring chances as they took, allowing Chicago a shorthanded odd-man rush and showing an inability to set up in the offensive zone.

With one minute remaining, Kris Russell ran over Crawford, earning Calgary’s fifth penalty of the night. Chicago was unable to cash in, and the third will open with an abbreviated power play.

Stray thoughts & simple stats

Holy endorphins, Batman! Jonas Hiller may be a superhero, and is definitely my latest man-crush. Chicago is a great team, as anyone with eyes can see. It has to be demoralizing to not be able to get one past this guy.

Wideman takes a lot of flak for being, and I quote, "horrible," but I have always thought he was a cut above. He always plays better when he gets a ton of minutes, as he has so far tonight.

So the penalty kill looks better tonight, but the power play looked dreadful.

Shots-on-Goal: Blackhawks 32-10, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp are tied with a game high four. TJ Brodie and McGrattan have two apiece for the Flames. Chicago has taken 75% of all shots through this game through the second. I'd say that Calgary would qualify as an "outlier" in the Corsi and Fenwick ratings.

Faceoffs: Blackhawks 23-17, Mikael Backlund is 11-for-21, Matt Stajan brings up the rear, going 0-for-5. Jonathan Toews has won 11-of-17 for Chicago.

Hits: Flames 11-to-7, Mikael Backlund, Curtis Glencross, and Kris Russell each have two, as does Andrew Shaw for Chicago.

Blocked Shots: Flames 20-8, Raphael Diaz leads the way with a Russell-like six, while Russell has three.

Third Period

So the period started with the Flames a man short, but Chicago again couldn’t get anything going. Saad tried to stuff one home just inside post just after the end of the power play, but Hiller had position.

Mikael Backlund took a dish from Brodie and lace a good looking one-timer on Crawford at the three minute mark, which was stopped with relative ease.

The Blackhawks started skating with a little, dare I say, desperation at around the six minute mark. Although you wouldn’t know it by the shot count, by this point just three-to-three in the third. A panicked Chicago team is a scary thing to contemplate. It was at this point, with 12 and a half minutes remaining, that Devon Setoguchi was called for holding Brad Richards’ stick, giving the Blackhawks a sixth chance with the extra skater.

Calgary won the draw in their own zone, and skated it all the way down the ice. After Chicago regained the offensive side of the ice, they got nice and set up, but couldn’t even reach Hiller before the Flames cleared it out, then they did it again. When the bad guys got back to the zone with 30 seconds left, an offsides call derailed them. Calgary won the ensuing face-off, then Mark Giordano held Patrick Kane’s stick behind the net. Not sure why he wasn’t called for a penalty, but I’m not complaining.

At this point, Calgary was trying really hard to slow the pace down, and they were pretty successful at playing keep away for a largish swath of three minutes or so after the penalty expired. Gaudreau dished a nice pass out to a centered Paul Byron with eight minutes left in regulation, but nothing came of it.

Hossa and Kane caught an apparently out of position Hiller flailing on the ice a second later, but somehow he managed toturn the puck away. Russell foiled a Kane breakaway with six minutes left, but was called for hooking in the attempt. Chicago power play, chapter VII.

Shaw redirected a shot by Sharp off less than 10 seconds into the man advantage. Shutout over. So, for those counting (and I know you all were), that was one goal versus 37 saves for Hiller. I mean, whaddaya want? He’s just one guy, not a superhero (after all).

The teams skated up and down the ice for the next few minutes, interrupted by a near-death experience for the Flames as Hossa redirected not one but two shots on a clearly up-for-redemption Hiller.

After a commercial break, I stopped taking notes for a moment as the two minute mark passed. I did this so that I could watch the game while standing up, hands on head, bouncing on my heels with every ebb and flow of the game. Each team had some last minute chances. Hossa put one in Hiller’s glove with less than a second remaining. Points for everyone!

Stray thoughts and simple stats

It took seven power plays and 38 shots for the Blackhawks to solve Hiller. The guy went on the road with his new team to play against probably the best offense in the NHL and played shorthanded for nearly a quarter of the game. I’d say he’s earned a little respect.

TJ Brodie’s a pretty sharp skater. I saw him make two guys miss really badly with 40 seconds left in regulation. He stopped short to fool the first and made the second fall down with a second move.

Shots-on-Goal: Blackhawks 46-16. Kane and Sharp with six, Carcillo with five for Chicago. McGrattan led the Flames with three, one in each period.

Faceoffs: Blackhawks 33-26, Monahan is six-for-eight, Backlund is 16-for-30. Chicago was paced by Toews, with 13-for-24 and Shaw, who was eight-for-13.

Hits: Flames 16-12, Shaw led both teams with three, five Flames and two other Hawks had two each.

Blocked Shots: Flames 30-11. Russell and Diaz tied with six. No Blackhawks with more than two. So yeah, that’s 47 shots on goal and 30 more that were blocked.

OVERTIME

Calgary won the draw and collected themselves in their own zone before the Hawks stole it and got set up in Calgary’s zone. Byron got a breakaway in all alone on Crawford 45 seconds into it, his second such chance of the night, but easily turned aside.

Chicago got set up again pretty fast afterward, and I have to say I loved the sound of the soft "thud" on Hiller’s pads as he made his 50th save of the night. The Hawks played a little tic-tac-toe and got a quality shot on Hiller with two minutes left but Hossa pulled it just wide. This was followed immediately by Byron with yet another breakaway and yet another puck in Crawford’s glove.

With 30 seconds left in the game, Brodie slid the puck across to Mikael Backlund at center ice. Backlund whipped it past Crawford just under his glove side with 24 seconds left. With his 50 saves, Hiller took the first star. Backlund earned the second with his game winner, and Andrew Shaw took home the consolation prize with the third.

For those counting, the Flames are now 3-1 on this road trip and 3-2 overall. It's the first win streak of the season!

The Flames will conclude their road trip with contests against the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday and against the Jets in Winnipeg on Sunday. Keep it locked down here at Matchsticks and Gasoline for all of your Flames news.