As this season wears on, the Flames have begun to find themselves in many four point games, each one increasing in importance. Tonight they faced the Minnesota Wild, who have climbed their way out of the Western cellar and into playoff contention, going 10-2-2 in their previous 14 games. Familiar foe and hometown boy Devan Dubnyk is the catalyst for the Wild’s new-found success, shutting out opponents four times since arriving in Minnesota. One of those times was the last time these two teams met, a 1-0 Wild victory.
The first period started off by following the familiar script. The Flames couldn’t do much of anything in the first few minutes, with excellent neutral zone play by the Wild: they were forcing dump-ins, turnovers, and negating any sustained offensive pressure. Brandon Bollig attempted to forecheck at one point, laying out Nate Prosser along the boards, and drawing the attention of Matt Dumba. No fights came out of it, but it did result in Bollig being in the Wild zone while play was gravitating into the Flames’ zone. Bless his heart for trying.
To this point the game mostly favoured the Wild, but the Flames got a few offensive rushes. On one such attempt, Dumba poked the puck away from Mason Raymond right to Thomas Vanek. The Wild started a three-on-two rush against Raphael Diaz and Deryk Engelland. Charlie Coyle passed to Vanek who quickly passed to Justin Fontaine, who buried the bouncing puck past Jonas Hiller. It was a good tic-tac-toe sequence from the Wild, and bad defence from the Flames. 1-0.
As per usual, the Flames weren’t playing so well in the first period. A weak pass from Dennis Wideman nearly lead to a turnover in front of the Calgary net. Kris Russell saved the day, but just for a little bit. His panicked clearance attempt didn’t leave the zone and Minnesota looked primed to seize the opportunity. In the chaos, Joe Colborne got caught for hooking, and received a two minute sentence.
Despite their powerplay being ranked 26th in the league, Minnesota began the powerplay with a lot of pressure, getting some good chances. Mikael Backlund settled things down after creating a turnover and heading in for a 1-on-1 scoring chance, but was forced to take a bad shot. From there, the Wild powerplay was tame.
The Flames were trying to take the momentum away from the Wild, and killing the penalty looked to be a step in the right direction. Back at even strength, the Wild broke out from their own zone. One simple pass from Jonas Brodin to Matt Dumba was all it took for Dumba to find enough room to shoot one past Hiller. It started to look grim. 2-0 Minnesota.
Soon after doubling up, Minnesota took a penalty for a Marco Scandella trip on TJ Brodie. The ensuing powerplay showed a lot of promise for the Flames. Diaz was key to the success of this powerplay, keeping the puck in on one especially dangerous clearance, and otherwise being very useful. The first unit kept the puck in the zone for about 90 seconds. The second unit was not so good, allowing the puck to be iced three times to finish the powerplay scoreless.
Nothing much happened until about two minutes later, when the Flames had an offensive zone faceoff. Monahan won the draw, playing it back to the trigger-happy Dennis Wideman. As he usually does, Wideman took a wicked shot on net, which Jiri Hudler knocked down. Dubnyk had it for a little bit, but the puck trickled past him for a Flames goal. The refs reviewed it to see if Hudler high-sticked it, but it was good. 2-1
The period ended without anything significant happening. Minnesota led in every category: 11-9 for shots, 24-20 for corsi, and 2-1 in goals.
The second period featured a new-look Flames team, who came out playing differently. Knowing that the problem was Minnesota having too much possession of the puck, Calgary chose to play it safe. They refused to bite into the Wild neutral zone trap, and instead opted to pass the puck back instead of forcing it forward, waiting for the play to develop.
They weren’t doing much with the possession, but at least Minnesota didn’t have it. This new strategy began to pay off for the Flames. Shortly, Calgary started to get shots on net, and kept Minnesota from creeping into their zone. There was about a six minute period of no whistles for the Flames.
To be truthful, Minnesota did get in their own way sometimes. Jason Pominville took an offensive zone penalty for high sticking, and the Flames got back to work. Bob Hartley deployed a high pressure powerplay strategy, calling for Gio or Wideman to creep up on the weak side wing. For the most part this worked, with Wideman getting two great shots off of the right wing. The goal was to create chaos for Dubnyk, who was allowing rebounds aplenty. However, the Flames just couldn’t score.
Shortly after their first penalty expired, the Wild took another penalty, and again it was in the offensive zone. Zach Parise took two for slashing, and the Flames once again tried to crack Dubnyk. They put pucks towards the net, but simply could not score. Even with Dumba breaking his stick, the Flames simply could not get pucks by Dubnyk.
The Flames’ effort showed in the end of period tallies, outshooting Minnesota 14-7, and outcorsi-ing them 29-13. Calgary also topped the total categories at the end of the second, leading 28-23 in shots, and 49-37 in corsi.
Being down 2-1 is exactly where the Flames want to be to begin the third period, but it was Minnesota who came out swinging. Perhaps having heard of the Flames’ third period prowess, the Wild were determined to put an end to it before the madness could begin. Hiller was forced to make a nice glove save only a few seconds into the period.
After some initial pressure from the Wild, the Flames settled it down, and began to look like the Calgary Third Periods we all know and love. After a defensive zone draw, Mikael Backlund passed the puck perfectly to Wideman, who led a three-on-two. After crossing the blue line, he dished it to Lance Bouma, who placed the puck perfectly in the top right corner. 2-2
The Flames, not satisfied with a tie game, continued to place the Wild under pressure. Guys like Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin who played 33:09 and 29:15 tonight were getting tired, and the Flames tried to take advantage of that. Another defensive zone breakout lead to a similar three-on-two with Bouma cruising in on the left wing, but Suter broke up the potential déjà vu.
With a three point game looming, the Flames really brought the noise in the last few minutes, almost never leaving the Wild zone. Dubnyk refused to crack, and the Flames were taking it into overtime for the second straight game. The third period was very close, but the Flames led 12-10 in shots and 21-20 in corsi. Regulation finished with shots being 35-28 and corsi being 70-57, both favouring the Flames.
The overtime frame began perfectly for the Flames. They immediately took the puck, and headed north towards the Wild net. They spent nearly the first minute and a half inside the offensive zone, but were unable to get off any chances. Hudler and Gaudreau both had nice chances, but a solid Minnesota defence prevented any overtime heroics. Instead, the Wild corralled the puck, and made good use of the one rush they needed in overtime. Catching Wideman and Russell on an odd man rush, the Wild did what they needed to do to set up Mikko Koivu for the game winner. 3-2 was your final score.
The Flames had two shots and three corsis in the short period, and the Wild had one corsi, one shot, and one goal. The final totals were 37-29 in shots and 73-58 in corsi, both for the Flames.
- Despite being held off the scoresheet, Johnny Gaudreau was a machine tonight, eating up 19:24 in time on ice. He registered four shots on net, and some unfortunate bounces could’ve resulted in more shots.
- Rafa Diaz is now looking like the Flames’ 5/6 d-man moving forward. Early in the second period, he showed some great hustle and bailed out Engelland after the latter played some really bad defence.
- In fact, barring a few instances, it was an unexpectedly good night for the Flames’ bottom four defenders. Wideman produced some good offence, registering five shots and two assists. Russell had a hell of a shift about five minutes into the third period, registering a shot and then hustling back and breaking up a really good scoring chance.
- Let’s give a hand to Devan Dubnyk, who once again got the better of the Flames, and is further proof that leaving Edmonton is the best career boost a man could have.
- The 156 seconds it took for the Minnesota Wild to go up 2-0 is just too common for the Flames. Some of their most recent games have seen them draw even in the corsi department, but early gaffes and defensive silliness continue to cost this team the valuable two points needed.
- Of course, Bollig only got his five minutes per night, and I’m sure only received one shift in the third period. Paul Byron was out with a leg injury tonight, so he slotted back in. He was not good.
- Deryk Engelland also only got 8:58 of ice time. I lied about the bottom four doing well tonight. Engelland is the odd man out.
- Hartley opted to not play useful guys like Matt Stajan and Joe Colborne, who only played 8:20 and 9:04. When you account for only even strength time, Stajan played 7:43, and Colborne 8:05. Rolling four lines was wonderful. Why can’t we do that every game?
Unfortunately, Los Angeles beat Colorado 4-1, moving them into a playoff spot and two points back of the Flames. Anaheim lost 4-1 to Tampa Bay, which places extra emphasis on the Flames’ next game, a home date against the Ducks on Friday. If Calgary wins that game, they will be able to make up for some lost time in the Pacific and slide to within seven points of first place. A division title is definitely a pipe dream, but if they’re close enough, might as well go for it.
Tomorrow, the Canucks plays the Rangers, the Jets play the Capitals, and the Sharks play the Stars. It would be nice if all of them lost.
Join us on Friday at 7:00 to watch your Calgary Flames take on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in a very important division game. See you there!