The Calgary Flames' road trip is nearing its end, and thank goodness for that, because signs of exhaustion are really starting to show. It took the Flames a while to get going, but they once again showed us their never give up style of play as they fought the Columbus Blue Jackets to the final buzzer.
It didn't take long for the Jackets to get on the board. After pretty much dominating the first three minutes of the game, something rare happened: Mark Letestu caught Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie, and dished the puck to Jack Skille in front of the net, who quickly tipped it past Karri Ramo.
Already up 1-0, that dominance continued as Giordano took a delay of game penalty. Despite a great initial killing effort from Mikael Backlund, once he was off the ice and the puck was back in the Flames' zone, David Savard, Cam Atkinson, and Nick Foligno were too much for the remaining penalty killers to handle, and Ryan Johansen finished the play with a goal, putting Columbus up 2-0.
And on it went. Brian McGrattan was called for interference, putting the Jackets back on the powerplay early in the game. The Flames avoided getting burned again, but it was all Jackets. Frustrated after even more offensive pressure against, Ladislav Smid ended up tussling with Corey Tropp behind the Flames' net.
Maybe it did something, because finally, after 10 minutes had passed, the Flames got their first shot on net.
Then again, it probably didn't, because the Jackets continued to press while the Flames couldn't get anything going until Skille ran Kris Russell over. That gave the Flames their first powerplay, and finally, some pressure of their own. With fewer than 30 seconds left in it, Calgary finally got into the game, all kicked off by a hard Russell shot. Despite four shots on net, Sergei Bobrovsky foiled the Flames' efforts, and the penalty was killed with the Jackets safely retaining their 2-0 lead.
Josh Jooris made his first strong impression when a bad Blue Jackets change gave him a two on one with Jiri Hudler, but his pass failed to connect, and the Flames were unable to capitalize on a wide open net.
Despite having a better finish to the period, the Flames left it down 2-0. They were actually lucky to, as in the period's dying seconds, the Jackets nearly scored again, but the puck went just wide as the horn blew to spare them.
The Flames opened the second looking much better. Russell continued to spark the Flames, as he drew his second penalty of the game when Artem Anisimov attempted to hook him. Unfortunately, this powerplay was nowhere near as good as the first, as the Flames managed just one shot on net and were mostly in disarray.
The Jackets quickly took back over. They would have soon been up 3-0 had it not been for Ramo. The fourth line and top D pairing got caught, and some tough bounces nearly had Skille scoring yet again, but Ramo was sharp and able to freeze the puck to limit the damage. He had to do it again soon after, as lackadaisical effort from the Flames resulted in a Johansen pass from behind the net right to Foligno. Ramo held strong to keep it out, and the puck didn't cross the line until after the whistle had gone, keeping them down by just 2.
It didn't matter for long, though. James Wisniewski had a nice cross-ice pass to Letestu, who was standing at the side of the net, behind Ramo. Letestu corralled the puck, and Ramo was unable to beat Matt Calvert, who knocked the puck in to make it 3-0 Columbus.
Jooris' line was sent out after, and the rookie nearly broke Bobrovsky's shutout with a nice move in front of the net, but was unable to corral the puck completely, and it got away from him. Still, he was creating the Flames' best scoring chances of the game about halfway through it.
The Flames continued to press to get on board, with shots by Smid, some good puck control by Matt Stajan until it was promptly ruined by lacklustre linemates, and a backhanded attempt by Sean Monahan, but Bobrovsky wasn't having any of it.
A horrific Brodie giveaway forced by Atkinson led to a flurry of Jackets chances, including Lance Bouma taking a tripping penalty to give Columbus their third powerplay of the game. The Flames generated a scoring chance of their own with Brodie, Giordano, and Colborne all rushing up the ice, but it wasn't meant to be, and the game returned to even strength with Columbus still up 3-0.
Calvert nearly got a breakaway, but a nice hip check courtesy of Rapha Diaz stopped him in his tracks. The Flames then got another chance to get something going, as Michael Chaput was called for a faceoff violation he probably didn't actually commit, but whatever. Calgary got off to a good start, as Giordano made himself open and some nice stick handling gave him a good shot attempt. He was the star of the powerplay, as it seemed to die once he was off the ice.
The penalty was killed, and without many more chances to score, the Flames left the period still down 3-0.
Diaz, who hadn't been getting much ice time, opened the period and drew a powerplay for the Flames, as Calvert charged him (and left his feet). Brodie kicked off the powerplay with two excellent chances, but just as he had been through the first two periods, Bobrovsky was perfectly composed and stopped them.
Diaz and Russell replaced Giordano and Brodie on the powerplay, and it paid dividends. As the man advantage was coming to an end, the two defencemen controlled the puck, and Diaz's shot ended up going off the forwards on the ice until Curtis Glencross tapped it to Mason Raymond. With the penalty just expired, Raymond had no problem tapping the puck past Bobrovsky to make it a two-goal game, 3-1.
The goal seemed to give the Flames life, and both teams generated good back-and-forth chances throughout the early stages of the third. Jooris was once again part of the rush, as he joined Stajan and Glencross in driving the puck to the net. Stajan got the shot off, but it went high. The Jackets responded with a Chaput shot going right off the crossbar, but fortunately out, to keep the game 3-1.
Jooris came back out, and started generating chances again, this time with a pass back to Backlund. He stayed out on the ice with Stajan, but couldn't get anything going, and was soon off as Stajan was called for high sticking on Wisniewski. The Flames had an aggressive penalty kill, with both Joe Colborne and Backlund getting shots, but while they kept the Jackets from scoring, they were still down by two.
And the Jackets weren't sitting back on their lead. Atkinson (former short Boston College star) and Johansen (former skilled Portland Winterhawks star) (sound familiar?) in particular were pressing. The Flames weren't sitting back, though...
~*~FIRST NHL GOAL ALERT~*~
Giordano, from behind the net, sprung Jooris with a great stretch pass. The rookie, beating out a Jacket on the way, drew it in and roofed it over Bobrovsky's glove with a great wrist shot. Jooris' first NHL goal was an absolute beauty, and gave the Flames new life. Hudler and Dennis Wideman got shots off in quick succession, and were especially pressing until Raymond tripped Calvert.
It was an eventful penalty kill: what should have quickly become a 4-2 game on an Atkinson attempt was somehow denied with an incredibly slick, last millisecond Ramo toe save. And then, absolutely riding it, Jooris got a shorthanded shot off. The penalty was killed with fewer than five minutes to go, and the Flames continuing to press, down by just one.
Jooris was out there in the final two minutes to try to tie it up, and had a good chance in that time. He, Brodie, and Giordano in particular were pressing hard, and Giordano just rang a shot off the goalpost, but it wasn't meant to be. Absolutely gassed, the Flames left it too late to press back, and fell 3-2 to Columbus.
Flame of the game
This one has to go to the rookie in his NHL debut: Josh Jooris. He was sheltered, but after generating a couple of good scoring chances in the first two periods, really broke out in the third. He scored his first NHL goal, generated chances, had three shots in all, two hits, a blocked shot, and led the Flames with an 89% CF rating (albeit with an 88% offensive zone start ratio, third on the team). He did all this in 15:29 of ice time, including powerplay and penalty kill time. What a start.
- Take Stajan away from McGrattan and Brandon Bollig and there is INSTANT. IMPROVEMENT. Who could have seen that coming, other than everybody? He was second in CF on the team at 62%, albeit with 67% offensive zone starts. Still, hey: McGrattan and Bollig started 75% of their shifts in the offensive zone, and yet finished at 38%. Come onnnn.
- Your best, non-sheltered possession forward? Glencross: 60% CF, 33% offensive zone starts. He had a much greater jump to his game.
- Looks like Paul Byron is human after all. He and Backlund started only 17% of their shifts in the offensive zone, and had 33% and 40% CF rates, respectively. They were the most buried of the Flames, but did a respectable job with it. Also - love these two on the penalty kill together. They really have chemistry.
- Brodie led the Flames in ice time, with 25:44. He's also riding a five-game point streak. This year is really going to be his coming out party.
- Though it didn't seem like it at first, this game ended up being rather even overall. The Flames outshot the Jackets 31-26, but both teams finished with 51 corsis apiece. I wouldn't blame this one on Ramo, either; the Flames came out sluggish and waited too long to really get back in the game. Then again, they've played the most games in the NHL, and have been on quite the road trip, so all things considered, they're doing relatively well.
Next game wishes
Unrealistic: #FreeMattStajan. Actually, he might be free now! With the Flames pressing to tie the game, McGrattan and Bollig completely disappeared. So hey, how about scratching both Tweedles Dee and Dum? They weren't even given six minutes of ice time. That's two dead weight roster spots. Johnny Gaudreau and Devin Setoguchi have to be better alternatives, and now Gaudreau's gotten his "watch and learn from above" game in, so...
Realistic: More Diaz! He finally wasn't the least played D, outplaying Smid by nearly two minutes, and he even got almost a minute of powerplay time. It's time to stop sitting him so much, and we may be on the right track here.
THE ROAD TRIP IS ALMOST OVER, HALLELUJAH. On Sunday, Oct. 19, the Flames will be in Winnipeg to play the Jets before getting to fly back home and hopefully get some real good rest for a change. Puck drop will be at 5 p.m. MT on City. See you then!