The last time the Calgary Flames met the San Jose Sharks, they may have been out-possessed, but thanks to the heroics of Jiri Hudler, TJ Brodie, and Karri Ramo, still managed an excellent 2-0 win. This time? Well...
You couldn't have asked for a better start from the Flames. Well, you could have; I mean, 10 goals would have been nice. But realistically? You seriously couldn't have asked for a better start.
A dominating frame by the Flames kicked off with David Jones' first scoring chance, and the team never looked back. Sean Monahan followed his lead, and rookies Josh Jooris and Johnny Gaudreau combined to get the puck to fellow youngster Brodie for yet another chance.
We had the Flames dancing around the Sharks all period long, essentially toying with them. Remember how Dennis Wideman scored two goals against the Avalanche last game, and how he's currently the NHL's lead scoring defencemen with 10 goals himself? Well, the Flames took advantage of this as he and Gaudreau tried to combine on a goal yet again, and a brief sequence where the Flames just kept feeding him the puck for him to shoot and, I assume, try to get him a new career high. (His current is 13 goals.)
Really, Antti Niemi was the only hero San Jose had, and even he wasn't infallible.
With the Flames loading so many chances on net, it was only inevitable. The Sharks seemed to have no problems letting the Flames just enter their zone, which is never really a good idea. The top line passed the puck around before Mark Giordano crept in. Jones tossed it back to him, and with an absolute howitzer the league's top defenceman rifled it in, 1-0 Flames.
That seemed to wake the Sharks up. They became much less of a disaster after that, and Logan Couture followed up by ringing it off the crossbar. His teammates had a late flurry of chances to close out the period, but Ramo held strong, and the Flames left the first up by one, outshooting the Sharks 12-8 and out-corsiing them 25-15.
Of course, if the Flames had scored 10 goals during their dominating first, that would have been ideal. Because hockey is a random game, and you never know what's going to happen. Like a Kris Russell giveaway to Justin Braun, who then backhanded it right past Ramo to tie the game just 33 seconds in.
And then a Rafa Diaz giveaway to Couture, who once again hit the post on his ensuing shot attempt, only this time, the puck went in. In just two minutes, the Sharks had taken a 2-1 lead, and the Flames suddenly looked on their heels.
Although they were certainly trying to fix that, as you would hope from a professional sports team. With Russell and Wideman out together, the Flames were able to create some pretty decent sustained pressure. Michael Ferland, in particular, had an outstanding shift as he worked extremely hard to keep the puck in, made Scott Hannan lose his stick, and had a good scoring chance. Sadly, though, no goal.
That's about when the powerplays started to kick in. First, it was Brent Burns interfering with Hudler, knocking him down to the ice and being generally unhelpful. Not that it mattered in this instance, because the Flames were unable to get even a single shot on net with the man advantage, and were still down a goal.
A couple unsuccessful Flames chances later, and it was then Giordano off to the box, called for a hook against Tomas Hertl. The Sharks have one of the best powerplays in the league, and it was a harrowing beginning to the kill, as they were dominating and getting pucks on Ramo. The Flames' netminder thankfully held the fort while the rest of his team worked to force the Sharks to the outside, and they were able to escape the penalty kill unscathed.
Better than that, actually. With the Sharks' powerplay over, the Flames got ahold of the puck and rushed it up the ice. What ensued was more like a comedy of errors as absolutely none of the Flames were able to get a handle on the puck, even though the Sharks' setup seemed to be begging them to score.
Well, thanks, Sharks! Because eventually they got it together, and 30 seconds after successfully killing Giordano's penalty, Matt Stajan, in his first game back, got the puck to Hudler. Hudler threw it on net and Gaudreau, who had quietly snuck in right behind Barclay Goodrow, got the rebound to tie the game at two.
And by the way, the Flames were still the ones mostly in control of the game, out-shooting the Sharks 21-16 and out-corsiing them 52-32.
The Sharks came out pressing in the third, with Patrick Marleau's stretch pass letting Tommy Wingels go in all alone, but Ramo had him. And that was followed up by Brenden Dillon giving a rather late hit to Hudler, taking an interference call, and giving the Flames their second powerplay of the game.
And they nearly retook the lead then and there. Gaudreau was alone in front of the net, which would normally spell doom for those who dare to oppose him, but Niemi was having a hell of a night. Down, but not out, the Sharks' Finnish goalie stretched his legs out and got him.
The Flames weren't done, as Giordano threw the puck out in front of the net and Paul Byron nearly batted it in, but chaos ensued. All the while Niemi kept it out, and the penalty was killed.
Then it was Ramo's turn, as Joe Pavelski went in tight on Ramo, but our own Finn stopped him. And then Marleau was back, dancing through players to get back into the Flames' zone before passing it up to Wingels, and Ramo had to be insanely ready to stop him.
Apparently, Marleau's will could not be held off forever. The Flames iced the puck, and with the fourth line stuck out there, disaster struck. Stajan hit Wingels into the boards, separating him from the puck, but Couture was right there to pick it up. He tried throwing it out in front, and it went off Giordano's stick and right to Marleau, and this time, Ramo wasn't sharp enough as the former Sharks captain made it a 3-2 game. Hertl nearly made it 4-2 right after, but was wide.
The kids were the ones trying to even it up with just over half a period to go, including a speedy rush up the ice thanks to Markus Granlund, Byron, and Ferland, but Ferland just wasn't fast enough to get a proper shot off, and the puck went harmlessly behind the net.
And then, things got tense. Brodie had a lapse and allowed Hertl to go in on a bit of a break. Ramo stopped him, but Brodie's error resulted in him taking a holding call. Half a minute into the Sharks' powerplay, Stajan was sent off for hooking down Pavelski, and the Sharks were gifted a 1:29 five on three - eep. The Sharks took their timeout to rest up and get ready for a golden opportunity.
Giordano, Wideman, and Lance Bouma were sent out to take care of it, and boy, did they, along with Ramo, ever. The Sharks controlled the puck, and eventually got the chance to extend their lead when Burns fanned his shot, but Pavelski quickly picked it up. Ramo met him head on, and on the ensuing faceoff, the Flames got it out of their zone.
And then they got it out again just as Brodie's penalty was expiring. Brodie jumped out of the box and rushed up the ice alongside Jooris, but was unable to find him or put it past Niemi. Stajan's penalty effectively died during this time, and with time winding down, Braun tripped Hudler.
That set the Flames up as Ramo immediately dashed off the ice and Calgary spent something like 45 seconds trying to find a lane and get shots off at six on five. Diaz had a couple of big ones, but eventually, the Sharks were able to touch the puck, and with just 1:19 to go, the Flames took their timeout to get themselves set up.
Bob Hartley sent out Wideman, Russell, Hudler, Gaudreau, Monahan, and Curtis Glencross as his team's penultimate hopes. Ramo stayed on the bench as the puck dropped, and Monahan won faceoff after faceoff as the Flames controlled the puck and hit Niemi, but just couldn't get past him.
There was one last gasp as the Sharks missed the empty net and Giordano got one last shot off in the final rush, but this time, it just wasn't to be. Despite outshooting the Sharks 35-30, and out-corsiing them 77-60, the night belonged to Niemi as he led San Jose away with a 3-2 victory.
Flame of the game
So, so close. And one of the guys who made it that way was Johnny Gaudreau. He had a great goal to tie it up late in the second, and was thisclose to taking the lead back early in the third. He had five shots on net over 19:21 of ice time, including 4:11 on the powerplay. Remember when he was a healthy scratch? He has 21 points in 22 games since then. That puts him at second in rookie scoring as he extends his point streak to four games.
- Goodrow sounds exactly like Gaudreau and that can get confusing at times. I am thankful Gaudreau victimized Goodrow on his goal. What even is a Goodrow? Spell it right, ya dingus.
- Ramo was the lesser goalie this game, but he still deserves a lot of credit. He was the victim of unfortunate bounces and poor defence turnovers. Of course you want him to replicate his first performance against the Sharks, but there were a number of tense moments, and Ramo frequently held strong to keep his team in it. After all, as we saw the entire game: all it takes is a bounce. Ramo was ready on most of them.
- Should Jonas Hiller start the next game? Through no fault of Ramo's, but I wonder if Hartley is going to implement a "win and you're in" system. Why not? That's kind of what's been going on lately, and it seems to be working out rather well.
- Giordano's goal keeps him at a point per game. He is a point per game defenceman 28 games into the season. That's pretty crazy. He's now tied for second in defencemen goals, three behind, well, Wideman. Giordano's riding his own four-game point streak to match Gaudreau.
- Wideman led the team in ice time, with 28:44. Next closest was Russell at 25:09. Wideman also led the defence in powerplay time. While we're looking at him to score goals, he actually only had three shots on net; Brodie and Giordano had four each.
- Monahan again leads the forward group. He, like Gaudreau, peppered Niemi with five shots, all over 22:56. That's the most he's played in a regulation game this season. That's also kind of insane.
- Stajan, in his return to the lineup, played just 9:02. A little over a minute of that came on the penalty kill. He also had an assist, a penalty, and a hit that played a role in leading to the Sharks' game-winning goal, oops. He was sheltered in his comeback game and did relatively well with it.
- I like Ferland and I'm just waiting, waiting, waiting for him to get his first NHL goal. He's really been pressing for it these past few games. Tonight would've been an amazing time to get it, but alas.
... Hartley showed more trust in Diaz? He was dressed to keep him playing every now and then, but maybe it should be a bit more often than that? Diaz brought up the rear for the defencemen this game, with just 9:43 on the ice. He was bad on the Couture goal, but he was out there and getting shots when the Flames were pressing to tie it up. It's not like Ladislav Smid played a lot either - about a minute more than him - but I'm not sure how wildly infrequent and small dressing times are helping Diaz find his game.
... /clears throat
Brian McGrattan played all of 5:54 and was irrelevant in literally every facet of the game and y'know what I bet Sven Baertschi would have been a better winger for Stajan in his return and also just plain in general and he probably would have at least gotten a shot on net Y'KNOW? Okay I'm done.
That's it for this three-game homestand. The Flames leave the 'Dome with a 2-1-0 record - not bad! Now it's out east for a four-game trip, kicking off with the first matchup of the year against the Maple Leafs. Join us on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 5:30 p.m. MT - friggin' eastern starts - where hopefully the Flames will keep up their "never-been-on-a-losing-streak-this-season" streak.