The San Jose Sharks lost! The Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings are tied in the standings! We're barely over halfway through the season but all of a sudden every single point is crucial and divisional games are tight, intense, and vaguely nauseating!! With all this in mind you'd think the Flames would show up to play, motivated by a very rude Kings crowd chanting that the Flames suck, but apparently not!
Joni Ortio is the only one who matters.
That was pretty much the tale of the first, as while the Flames had their occasional chances, the Kings spent much of the period cycling in the Flames' zone, including multiple extended shifts of offensive pressure courtesy of them simply being the better team. Sure, the Flames had a couple of chances of their own - shoutout to Johnny Gaudreau, whom the Kings must totally despise - but it was Ortio seeing the rubber most of the period.
Of course, Ortio is the second coming of our lord and saviour, Miikka Kiprusoff, so he didn't have much trouble stopping everything that came his way, and bailing out his teammates when they got caught breathless from all the chasing they were doing.
Things didn't exactly improve when the Flames took a too many men penalty, the result of a failed line change, the result of the Kings holding pressure for so long and then quickly regaining it. Lance Bouma and Jeff Carter took mutual roughing calls, but it remained a five-on-four call. And honestly? The Kings looked better when the game was at even strength, as the Flames limited their chances and successfully killed it.
Joni Ortio was the only person who mattered, because the shots were 8-1 for the Kings by the time the Flames got a powerplay of their own, when Marian Gaborik tripped Mark Giordano. And say what you will about the Flames' powerplay, but it was substantially better than their time at even strength.
Because it took them over 14 minutes to put more than one puck Jonathan Quick's way.
Dwight King had a shorthanded chance for his namesake team, while Sean Monahan had a pretty decent chance of his own with the man advantage, but the game remained scoreless.
The Flames even managed to get a three-on-one at even strength! It was courtesy of Monahan, Bouma, and Brandon Bollig. Bouma was the one with the puck. As you can imagine, they did not score.
Gaborik had two excellent back-to-back chances on Ortio, which were substantially better than Bouma's shot; but again, as we have established that Joni Ortio is the only one who matters, he did not score.
Things got a little chaotic to end the frame. Robyn Regehr absolutely levelled Monahan, and Monahan was gone for the rest of the period. Joe Colborne brought the puck up to the side of the Kings' net and tried a centring pass, only to get hit by Drew Doughty. They briefly tussled, resulting in Doughty being sent off for two thanks to a cross-checking call. And then another two for being a whiny baby, or the more technical term, "unsportsmanlike conduct".
That was all with just seven seconds left in the period. With two seconds left, Mikael Backlund and Jarret Stoll went to sit for matching roughing calls.
The Kings outshot the Flames 10-3 in the first, and out-corsied them 19-15.
Joni Ortio is the only one who matters.
That was pretty much the tale of the second, as well. That and failed powerplays. There were a lot of those.
Courtesy of all-around jerk Doughty, the Flames started the period with 3:54 on the powerplay, and Monahan was right back out there for the faceoff. Both penalties were killed, of course - we're talking about the Flames powerplay, here - but there was a close call when Giordano rifled it hard and TJ Brodie just put the puck wide after. Monahan was close to a goal, as well.
But yeah. The double minor ended with Dennis Wideman breaking his stick. Carter and King went in on the Flames' zone, but Wideman stayed with them to block the shot. The Kings had pressure initiated once again, but thankfully, Joni Ortio - the only one who matters - was eventually able to get a handle on it to stop the madness, what with David Jones without a stick and all (as he gave his to Wideman).
And then Giordano gave the puck right to Dustin Brown. But because Joni Ortio is the only one who matters, he made a perfect, absolutely gorgeous glove save from way out of his crease to stop him.
And then came the stretch where Joni Ortio was REALLY the only one who mattered.
First, Bollig took a very stupid penalty. After the whistle, he shoved Stoll for no reason, Stoll flopped, and Bollig was gone for roughing.
The Kings did not score on the powerplay, despite an absolutely amazing Carter redirect chance, because Ortio. And the Flames actually nearly got a shorthanded chance when a streaking Monahan nearly got the puck to Paul Byron, but Gaborik intercepted the pass.
Following their second kill of the game, Matt Stajan hit Brown into the boards. He then punched him in the head for reasons unknown (probably because Dustin Brown). And thus, Stajan was off for roughing, and Joni Ortio was still the only one who mattered.
Although the Flames did get another nice shorthanded chance when Jake Muzzin gave the puck right to Backlund. Backlund dished it off to Byron in front of the net, and Byron... couldn't get the shot off.
Still, the penalty was killed, thankfully, because, well, Joni Ortio (the only one who matters).
Halfway through the game, the shots were 19-5 for the Kings, because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
AND THEN Jiri Hudler high-sticked Mike Richards. There were no shorthanded chances for the Flames on this kill. The Kings had chances. Joni Ortio is the only one who matters, so it was killed.
But then the Flames got a powerplay of their own! Nick Shore, brother of Drew Shore, tripped Bouma. And despite the Flames powerplay being the Flames powerplay, this one was good! The last time the Flames had a shot on net was during the Doughty double minor, so the bar was set very, very low!
And man oh man was it a good start to the powerplay. A blast by Wideman created some chaos and a great chance by Gaudreau. That happened a second time, and when it was time to change units, Giordano was hitting the net hard as well.
While they didn't score with the man advantage, the Flames did get four shots with it. That nearly doubled the amount they'd had all game. Everything was terrible (except for Ortio).
The period ended with a Byron and Jones two-on-one, but the puck bounced too much for it to be meaningful. By this point the Kings were out-shooting the Flames 27-9 after two, and out-corsiing them 28-18.
The Flames actually had a good start to this period, so I am allowed to talk about someone other than Joni Ortio for once. Markus Granlund's shot deflected on Quick, and the Kings goalie had trouble with it. So much trouble that Bollig almost got a goal. He didn't, of course, but it was that chaotic.
And then Bouma drove the net and his pass over the crease just failed to meet Jones' stick, who probably would have scored.
But of course, we can't give the rest of the Flames too much credit. Not when Joni Ortio is there. Shore brought the puck into the Flames' zone and had a very nice pass over to Carter, who was coming in hard on Ortio, but the Finn's poke check stopped any real danger from happening.
Unfortunately, as perfect and wonderful as he is, there's only so much one guy can take. Kris Russell turned the puck over to Trevor Lewis. Both Bollig and Deryk Engelland, at the same time!, went over to try to separate him from the puck. They could not. Instead, Lewis passed the puck back to Brown, who passed the puck back to Matt Greene, who rifled it past Ortio. Thus, a goal was finally scored, and the Kings had a 1-0 lead.
But then! Three and a half minutes later! Alec Martinez couldn't handle the puck at the blueline, allowing Monahan to simply take it. He raced into the offensive zone. Regehr, he who hit him earlier, was the only guy back. Regehr prevented him from making any fancy moves in on Quick, but Monahan didn't need to do anything flashy. He just needed a good old hard boring shot to tie the game right up at one. Sean Monahan matters, too!!
Granlund actually almost got a goal right after as Quick had a hard time handling his shot before awkwardly falling over, but he was still able to stop it.
Stoll gifted the Flames their fifth powerplay of the game with a delay of game penalty. The Flames did not score on the powerplay.
With the game tied at one and the standings super close, things were tense and physical. So much so that Regehr absolutely nailed Giordano, which made me sad because old Flames defencemen and all. Fifteen seconds to go, and both were off for mutual roughing calls as a scrum broke out around them.
Regulation ended with the Kings outshooting the Flames 33-19, and out-corsiing them 62-52.
The Flames played three-on-three once before. It was against the Edmonton Oilers. They sent out Giordano, Brodie, and Monahan, and what with Brodano being arguably the best defence pairing in the entire league, it was no contest. But with Giordano in the box? And Regehr also in the box? I... still love Regehr and all, but the tradeoff was TERRIBLE for the Flames. Also terrifying.
So terrifying, Brodie didn't leave the ice until Giordano was freed from the box. Although the Flames had some decent looks three on three, courtesy of Russell and Backlund carry-ins.
But with Giordano back on the ice, things were okay again. Although he wasn't on the ice for the most crucial play of all...
So, the Russell - Wideman pairing was out. Russell dished the puck over to a wide open Wideman, who shot it from a sharp angle. He hit the crossbar, and play went on until the Kings iced the puck, forcing the whistle and a video review and OH HEY TURNS OUT WIDEMAN SCORED AFTER ALL.
And with that, despite being outshot 34-23, and out-corsied 67-60, the Flames won the game and the season series, keeping hold of their wildcard spot and bringing the Kings down 2-1.
In the end, Joni Ortio wasn't the only one who mattered. He just mattered the most.
Flame of the game
Hahaha you're joking right? Joni Ortio. The Flames had five shots on net after 30 minutes. Joni Ortio. They finally decided to show up in the third period and especially in overtime, but oh my Ortio, this is not even up for debate, Ortio won this game for the Flames. He stopped 33 of 34 shots for a .971% save percentage. He's a hero. He's our new saviour. He's started every game on this road trip, full of Pacific Division teams in increasingly meaningful contests, and he's won each and every single one of them, and single-handedly a couple of times. Joni. Joni. I love you so much.
- With Curtis Glencross now on the injured reserve, Hudler got to wear his "A". Why wasn't he given it before, really? I mean is there anything more captain-y (or alternate-y whatever) than spending your entire season helping out rookies?
- For all you toughness and grit fans: if Bollig and Engelland are so tough, how come the two of them together couldn't stop Lewis from making a play? The Flames are making progress when it comes to the overwhelming and totally unnecessary amount of grit in their lineup. It's just very slow progress. But we'll get there, one day. (The two of them only combined for 16 minutes of ice time... Throw Ladislav Smid in and it's 26 minutes, aka one Russell or Wideman!)
- Speaking of defencemen, at one point Brodie and Giordano just gave up and led a rush into the Kings' end on their own. How often do you see two defencemen in the offensive zone and nobody else? Brent Sutter's all-defenceman powerplay that one time doesn't count.
- Just to annoy Kings fans (because I've made up my mind that they hate Gaudreau, and I don't care if this isn't actually the case), Gaudreau got the secondary assist on the overtime winner.
- Monahan eclipsed 20 minutes in ice time for the first time since the Dec. 31 overtime win against the Oilers. He was the only Flames forward to play more than 20 minutes. He was leaned on very heavily and it seems he's coming through, eh? He also has a three-game goal streak. Nice.
- Backlund's point streak, meanwhile, sadly came to an end.
- Byron on what should be a surefire goal right in front of the net is very much comical at this point. He's all speed, no hands. But hey, the Flames are better when he's on the ice, and occasionally he will actually pot one. Stop underrating him or suggesting he be scratched, folks. Despite the hands, he is not the problem.
- How adorable was Wideman's reaction?? From celebratory to cursing as he retrieved the iced puck to jubilant, child-like joy on the bench when they called it a goal. I'm sorry I ever said mean things about you, Dennis. (I'm actually not, life would be easier if you were better at defence, but the offence is appreciated.) His 12 goals are now tied for the league lead among defencemen.
- Dennis Wideman was an All-Star, once.
- Joni Ortio and Sean Monahan continue to have very, very nice hair.
... the Flames' first powerplay unit consisted of Brodie, Giordano, Hudler, Gaudreau, and Monahan? Because that's what it should consist of. Those guys looked good out there together. The powerplay may still be terrible and the Flames still can't score on it, but chuck that five-man unit out there and I bet we'll see some tangible results sooner rather than later.
... Bob Hartley played Backlund more? There's no reason for Colborne to have more ice time than him. He's up there with Monahan for best Flames centres. I like Colborne and all, but I honestly can't figure out what he did to get free, easy passes every step of the way of his NHL career under Hartley. Backlund is the better player, therefore, you should play Backlund more. He was so good in overtime!
... Drew Shore had dressed for this game? It wouldn't have made a difference, really. But with all the chippiness going on, we probably could've gotten to see two brothers punching each other in the face on NHL ice, and that would have been awesome.
... Joni Ortio got some support?
... Joni Ortio started the next game? I know it's against Jonas Hiller's old team and all, but... I mean... Ortio... this road trip... Ortio...
THIS ROAD TRIP IS AMAZING AND THE BEST. It is perfect and fun and the Flames are inexplicably in a playoff spot (except not inexplicably, because Joni Ortio). There's just one more game left in it, and it's against the current division leaders, the Anaheim Ducks. IN ANAHEIM. You know, where the Flames NEVER WIN. Wednesday. Jan. 22. 8 p.m. MT. And then the All-Star break. Hey you know who's an All-Star? Joni Ortio. Start him. Break the curse. Keep this bizarre season dream alive. I love you, Flames.