The Calgary Flames came back from an 0-4 roadtrip, in the midst of a six-game losing streak. The New York Rangers were in the midst of their own four-game road trip, and winners of their last three straight. Two teams trending in opposite directions... and onwards the trends went.
Well, the Flames got off to a fantastic start. Eight minutes into the period, they were already outshooting the Rangers 3-0. Yup: it took the Rangers more than eight minutes just to try to get puck towards the Flames' net. And it was Lee Stempniak who had their first shot! Aw, Lee. Anyway, needless to say, Karri Ramo had it.
And that's pretty much right where all the good times for the Flames ended.
The first disaster struck when TJ Brodie had a hard dump in. The puck ricochetted off the boards and to Rick Nash. Letting Nash have the puck all alone is kind of a bad thing. In he went, with Brodie too far back to effectively defend against him, and going right to left, he pulled the puck around Ramo's outstretched pad and tucked it neatly in, putting the Rangers up 1-0.
And then David Jones slashed Jesper Fast for some reason, granting the Rangers a powerplay just 34 seconds after they took the lead. The Flames managed to kill the advantage, but not without a dangerous moment created by a Kris Russell giveaway. Chris Kreider picked the puck up, passed it to Mats Zuccarello, and Ramo had to be sharp to get it.
With the penalty over, Joe Colborne very nearly tied the game off an excellent Sean Monahan pass, but he ended up hitting the post rather than beating Henrik Lundqvist.
And then, major disaster number two. With just a minute left in the period, Jiri Hudler was called for hooking on Matt Hunwick. This itself wasn't necessarily the problem, because right away, Lance Bouma, Josh Jooris, and Russell all got shorthanded chances, aided by the likes of Brodie and Paul Byron.
But oh, Kris...
Following Russell's missed shot, the Rangers finally managed to get the puck into the Flames' end. Zuccarello shot it on Ramo, and with Russell right there, the two attempted to corral the puck so Ramo could freeze it. They failed. And then Kreider jumped in to the awkward fumbling and poked the puck into the net instead, making it 2-0 for the Rangers with just eight seconds left in the period.
So... that wasn't good. The Flames led the way with an 8-7 shot advantage after one, and a 14-12 corsi advantage, but down 2-0 thanks to some pretty unfortunate defencemen gaffs.
Things... weren't about to get much better. Sure, the Flames got their first powerplay of the game when Stempniak high-sticked Dennis Wideman, but they couldn't really do anything on the powerplay. No, wait, it was worse than that. They failed so bad with the man advantage that Nash and Derek Stepan ended up on a two-on-one courtesy of a Dan Girardi block and retrieval of the puck. Stepan to Nash, and the former 40-goal scorer had his second of the night, putting New York up 3-0 shorthanded.
Everything got rrrrreeeeeeaaaaaaalll quiet.
The Rangers rather happily finished killing the powerplay, and rather happily continued defending against the seemingly incompetent Flames. I mean. Russell sent Colborne up the ice with a great stretch pass, and Jones joined him for a two-on-one. Colborne tried to saucer it over to Jones. It did not make it anywhere remotely near him, and the two-on-one concluded without any shots or scoring attempts.
In some serious need of... grit, I guess, Bouma hit JT Miller. He lost his stick, and was pretty much looking for a fight right away. He grabbed Hunwick and Hunwick just kind of stared at him like, "What? No," so in came Tanner Glass for combat. It was a very brief fight, and right after Deryk Engelland got a scoring chance. It was weird. Lundqvist saved it, so not THAT weird, but weird.
And then, back to normal. Markus Granlund rang a shot off the post. The puck immediately went down to the Flames' end, and Stepan ended up picking up the puck and tucking it away on a nice wraparound, giving the Rangers a 4-0 lead (in part thanks to Wideman's bumping of Ramo, rendering the goalie unable to get back in position).
And that was that. Numerous defencemen screwups, and Ramo's night was over. In came Jonas Hiller to try to straighten things out.
It kind of worked? Right after, the Flames got into the offensive zone. Mark Giordano took a shot from the point, and with a mass of bodies in front of Lundqvist, Hudler tipped it in to break the shutout and claw the Flames onto the board, now down 4-1.
Carl Hagelin hooked Johnny Gaudreau, impeding his progress and giving the Flames their second powerplay of the game. THIS ONE WENT BETTER! They didn't score, but had numerous chances, albeit the powerplay was extremely scrambly. It ended with Monahan whacking away at Lundqvist's pads, but the Swede wouldn't budge.
Still down by three, somehow Girardi sent defence partner Ryan McDonagh on a breakaway. He lost the puck and it trickled away wide, but it was not exactly a banner game for the Flames.
Especially what with Rafa Diaz then holding Dominic Moore behind the Flames' net, granting the Rangers another powerplay. Hiller was very, very sharp in stopping them, including a great save-rebound sequence. And Brodie even got a great shorthanded scoring chance! But Lundqvist stopped it.
The penalty was killed, and the Flames remained down 4-1. Although they were outshooting the Rangers 24-16, and and out-corsiing them 40-30, but in serious need of some goals.
Well, the Rangers were coming into the third with a three goal lead, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when they didn't really let a whole lot happen. The game was already pretty much in the bag for them.
Not to say the Flames still weren't trying, because man, they certainly were. They peppered Lundqvist with shots throughout the frame, including a great sequence with Gaudreau spinning the puck around to a teammate, only for the surefire goal to be stopped right on the line by Kevin Klein. The scramble continued, including hard shots by both Giordano and Engelland, and a tricky shot Diaz shot that everybody lost, but still didn't go in.
Heck, even the fourth line was in on it, and isn't it great to have a fourth line out there you can trust? Bouma tried centring the puck for Matt Stajan, but it just wasn't going to go.
Down 4-1 with four minutes left in the game, Hartley went ahead and pulled Hiller. It took the Rangers a minute to get the empty netter, when Kevin Hayes poked the puck into empty area, and speedster that he is, Hagelin beat everyone to it and potted his second empty netter in two games to make it 5-1. Hiller was not pulled again after that.
Although they still weren't quite done! With just over two minutes to go, Marc Staal went off for cross-checking. Monahan brought the puck into the zone on the powerplay and skated it down by the net before dishing it off to Curtis Glencross. Glencross nailed an absolutely perfect shot to make the score slightly more respectable, making it 5-2 with just over a minute to go.
Three goals in one minute isn't unheard of, but it's unlikely. Not even a too many men penalty by the Rangers was of much help. The Flames continued to press throughout the final minute, but it was over. Down early, Calgary ended up outshooting New York 31-23, and out-corsiing them 64-38 as they failed to prevent their sixth straight loss.
Flame of the game
This one is... difficult. I'm going to give it to Mark Giordano, who was one of the few (only) Flames defenders to play more than 20 minutes and not be totally horrific on a goal against. He led the team with 23:53, and his outstanding shot led to the Flames' first goal. He got himself back on the scoreboard, and has only been held off it six times this season (!!). So... eh, why not? (Seriously, this one was a hard one, and Giordano's as good a default as any.)
- Feel for Ramo on this one. Both of Nash's goals were amazing, and also the result of unfortunate bounces. Russell goofed on Kreider's. Wideman goofed on Stepan's. It happens. It wasn't all Ramo's fault.
- This is the second time this season the Flames have switched goalies. The first time was back on Nov. 8, when Ramo let in four goals on 22 shots. The Flames were only down 4-3 when he was pulled, though, so a comeback for the eventual 6-4 win was far more likely. Like that game, though, Hiller didn't let anything in once it was his turn. It was just far too late this time.
- The Flames are tied for second-last in the league in empty net goals against; Hagelin's was the fifth against them this season. Considering how often they've been down and pulled the goalie, it's not too bad, but pulling the goalie with four minutes to go when you just haven't been scoring all game seems kind of, well, silly. I know the best case scenario heavily outweighs the worst, but it's also far less likely and probably not about to make any of the players feel a whole lot better when it doesn't come through.
- The nice thing about no goons at forward: Hartley was able to roll all four lines. Everyone played over 10 minutes this game. Bouma played the least at 11:33, while Monahan the most at 18:07. Monahan has played over 20 minutes for 18 of 33 games this season, which is particularly insane for a sophomore. Having more reliable players in the lineup prevents that from happening, and keeps guys from getting tired. The goals aren't coming, but it's a good look.
- As for the defence, the top four were all over 20 minutes, as is the norm. Diaz, however, was granted the most trust he's seen all season, with 15:44 of ice time. Engelland, meanwhile, played 13:35... Compare their contracts and give your head a shake. Mostly you, Treliving. Shake your head.
- Because the Flames were desperate to tie it back up, they led the way in shots. Hudler had the most with five, then Colborne with four; after that, four different Flames had three.
- The Flames without a shot on net? Gaudreau (that's kinda shocking), Stajan, Jones, Engelland, and Byron. All five were in on at least a scoring chance or two, though.
... Deryk Engelland got a goal? I only say this because he was as close as he's come all season. Like three times. It would have been a nice moment, at least; he hasn't scored since March 7.
... the Flames mixed up their lines a little more? Look, they were shooting at a really high clip, and that wasn't going to last. What we're seeing right now isn't exactly unexpected. Still, it should be time to give the lines a shakeup. And yes, I'm mostly saying this because I REALLY want to see a Gaudreau - Monahan - Hudler line.
Well. It's not gonna be seven in a row, is it? Uh... it could be. But hopefully not. In the Flames' final home game before the Christmas break they'll be hosting the Dallas Stars on Thursday, Dec. 19 for a 7 p.m. puck drop. See you then!