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Warded off: Caps 3, Flames 1

Joel Ward scored twice to lead the Capitals to a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

By a matter of hours, the Calgary Flames are the second team in the NHL to play in their 10th game of the season (The Boston Bruins won their 10th earlier, 4-1 over the Toronto Maple Leafs).

First Period

After a quick Mark Giordano shot on goal in the first 30 seconds, the first three minutes of the game were characterized by long outlet passes and neutral zone turnovers by both teams. The Caps first shot of the game was at the 2:48 mark by Liam O’Brien, followed quickly by Matt Niskanen and Joel Ward over a 20 second span.

The first half of the frame would see a total of three whistles as the two teams skated pretty cleanly with no offsides, no penalties, no pucks out of play and no icing calls of which to speak. Joe Colborne was called for tripping Alex Ovechkin for the first penalty of the night at the 10:48 mark. The Flames were killing it pretty well for the first bit, playing keep away effectively until Deryk Engelland whiffed on a clearing pass, turning the puck over on an unforced error to Joel Ward. Ward wasted zero seconds in sliding it right between Karri Ramo’s pads to open the scoring at the 11:17 mark.

Calgary was tentative through the rest of the period (until the very end). With around two minutes left in the period, Troy Brouwer was called for roughing Matt Stajan. The whistle was blown just a split second before Brandon Bollig would have caught an out of position Braden Holtby for an open cage to shoot the puck into. The ensuing power play would see the Flames sustain pressure on Holtby, keeping it in the zone from the time the penalty started until Dennis Wideman laced it home 1:20 later, and 10 seconds before the period ended. It was Wideman’s fifth of the season, with assists from Kris Russell and Jiri Hudler.

Stray thoughts and simple stats

  • Matt Stajan needs to stay off the fourth line. There was a rush at about the four minute mark where he whizzed through most of the Caps team almost like Johnny Gaudreau did the other night. Stajan needs from 13-15 minutes a night to really hit his stride. He’s too good to be buried that deep.
  • Where’s Rafa Diaz? Engelland is clearly the weakest link here. Even Brandon Bollig has been proving his worth over the last couple of games, but Engelland, to understate a fact, is not worth the money that the Flames are throwing at him.
  • So, by my estimate, 55% of the NHL is populated by Canadians, 30% by Americans, and 15% by Europeans, including Russians. Do you think that the smattering of Easterners throughout the NHL’s rosters get a little wistful during the not one, but two National Anthems (neither of which is their own) they have to endure every night? How would you feel if you became a star in the far east and had to listen to China’s and Japan’s National Anthem each night?

  • Shots-on-Goal: Caps 9-6, Joel Ward had three, 12 other players tied for second with one each.

  • Faceoffs: Caps 10-9, Sean Monahan led the Flames at 4-of-6, and Matt Stajan wasn’t far behind at 4-for-7. Michael Latta was also 4-for-6.

  • Hits: Caps 13-9, Brooks Orpik had FIVE. That’s one every 1:31 he was on the ice. Lance Bouma led the Flames with four, but in only four minutes on the ice, it was even more impressive than was Orpik. Joe Colborne and Ovechkin had two each to place second on their respective teams.

  • Blocked Shots: Tied 2-2

Second Period

With score effects turned off and the two teams skating with five players each, the Caps and Flames re-emerged at 9:07 MST for frame number two. Nicklas Backstrom got two quick and dangerous shots off at Ramo, who was tall under pressure just under a minute into the period. Play was wide open for the first few minutes, with each team getting a few good chances against each other, punctuated by a Curtis Glencross snipe which was kicked aside by Holtby for good measure with four minutes gone.

Joel Ward seems to have Calgary’s number, and scored his second of the contest off a  centering pass from Michael Latta at 5:41. A secondary assist was awarded to Brooks Orpik for the 2-1 Washington lead.

Gaudreau got a pretty good chance at the eight-minute mark, camping there in front of Holtby. It’s my impression that he’s used to competition being slightly slower, and due to that, he was unable to flip a backhand at the net, getting matched in speed by the Caps’ defence.

Brooks Orpik was called for tripping Mason Raymond with around 11 minutes gone in the period. Calgary got setup nicely at first, but after a Washington clear were unable to really get things going again. The Caps cleared it three times in total, allowing one shot on goal by my count.

Orpik ran over Jooris twice in less in less than a minute with around two minutes left, and Bollig took a swing at him in retaliation. each earning a five-minute fighting major. Orpik was also called for boarding and roughing, leaving the action at four-on-four.

Stray thoughts and simple stats

  • Calgary looked sharp at first blush, but just weren’t getting enough shots on the net through the first half of the game. They were outshot through the first 30 minutes by a 19-to-9 mark.
  • Alex Ovechkin blocked a shot with the top of his hand. His glove didn’t give him a lot of protection, as shown later on the bench when he was seen grimacing in pain and poking around his ungloved left hand.
  • Sean Monahan was making a pretty strong case for his third goal of the season during the second power play for Calgary, camping out in front of the net and nearly getting gifted a puck at the right time. He just barely missed.
  • I wasn’t quite sure how that ended with four-on-four, as the Caps were clearly aggressors leading up to the altercation. Still, Orpik got the worst of the fight, heading to the locker room with a spattering of blood on his mug.
  • Shots-on-Goal: 22-15 Caps, Joel Ward led all skaters with four. Mikael Backlund, Andre Burakovsky, and Mike Green had three each.

  • Faceoffs: 20-18 Caps, Matt Stajan led Calgary with 8 wins in 14 tries,while Nicklas Backstrom had an impressive 10-for-16 showing.

  • Hits: 24-14 Caps, Orpik is head and shoulders above the rest, with eight. Bouma has five for the Flames.

  • Blocked Shots: 10-7 Caps, Kris Russell, Karl Alzner, and Alex Ovechkin are tied with a game high two each.
  • Bottom Line: Capitals 2, Flames 1

Third Period

Nicklas Backstrom extended Washington’s lead just under a minute into the third, taking a long outlet pass from Karl Alzner during a line-change by Calgary. Kris Russell fell down trying to hold him up.

Score effects were plainly evident with the Flames now trailing by two goals, as the offense got more aggressive and the defence got more careless.

With 11 minutes gone in the period, Bollig tossed off his gloves in anticipation of a scrap with Jason Chimera. Nothing materialized, and Bollig got a two-minute roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct, effectively ending his night. Byron had a sweet breakaway chance, getting behind everyone but getting stoned by Holtby. On the play, Troy Brouwer was called for roughing at the 11:59 mark, resulting in a little 4-on-4 followed by an abbreviated Flames’ power play for 1:12. Backstrom had a breakaway chance, himself getting stopped by Ramo. That was followed by a big mess and a not-quite fight which ended with TJ Brodie in the box for slashing Eric Fehr. Fehr was sent to the box for roughing Curtis Glencross. When all the math was done, the Flames were 4-on-4 for 23 seconds.

The Flames started their penalty kill by charging the Caps’ net, getting some well needed pressure on Holtby. Josh Jooris got the puck and charged up the right side of the ice, but clearly on the end of his shift could barely control the biscuit.

Down by two, the Flames pulled the goalie with three minutes left. Maybe a little premature, but you have to love Bob Hartley’s confidence. The Caps cleared it three times without too much effort. Brouwer took the fourth cleared puck and missed the empty net by about four feet. The Flames were unable to get anything going with the extra skater.

Stray thoughts and simple stats

  • With around five minutes gone, Paul Byron scooped up a loose puck and flitted up the ice like a waterbug, easily evading larger Caps on a one-on-four that didn’t stand a chance. Still, he’s got a lot of untapped talent, and with a little luck should start lighting the goal lamp with some regularity.
  • Calgary did not look better than the Caps in any category tonight, on paper or by the old eye test. Clearly, the better team won.
  • Shots-on-Goal: 30-21 Caps, Ward and Green had four each, Backlund, Russell, and Wideman to lead the Flames with three apiece.
  • Faceoffs: 30-28 Caps, Nicklas Backstrom was 15-for-23, the only Flame at better than 50% was Matt Stajan, who took 12-of-21.
  • Hits: 30-25 Caps, Brooks Orpik hit 10 guys. Lance Bouma led the Flames with six.
  • Blocked Shots: 16-12 Caps, five Caps and two Flames each had two.
  • Bottom Line: Capitals 3, Flames 1

That could have been better, but it's a long season. Next up for the Flames: The Montreal Canadiens come to town for a tilt on Tuesday night. Keep it locked down here at M&G for all your Flames news, and check out Japers' Rink for a Washington take on tonight's events.