Well, sometimes you lose. The Flames were outgunned from the start, on paper and on ice, and closed out a six game home stretch against the perennially contending Pittsburgh Penguins in tragic fashion. They haven't beaten the Penguins in their past nine matchups.
The first period started off with a bit of back and forth play, but things settled down in favour of the Penguins. The first Penguins goal came shortly after, due to a good, then bad, Giordano play. First, Gio pressured Sidney Crosby into giving the puck up. Good. Then he tried to pass it out of zone, giving the puck right to Chris Kunitz, who passed to Crosby, who passed to Perron (remember him? In a surprise to no one, careers and happiness are improved by leaving the Edmonton Oilers) who scored. Bad. 1-0 Penguins
After the Perron goal, the Flames found themselves on a powerplay after Steve Downie tripped up Joe Colborne. Bob Hartley tossed his powerplay units up a bit, giving the first unit duties to Jones, Backlund, Raymond, Diaz, and Giordano. Flames had consistent pressure in the Pittsburgh zone, but couldn’t score.
The end of the powerplay was the beginning of a short period of nothing happening. Neither Flames nor Penguins really seemed that interested in trying to score, or even shoot. The two teams preferred to battle in the neutral zone, turn the puck over, and then repeat that. A whistle did not sound for about four minutes.
The Penguins reasserted themselves as the better team in this game, controlling offensive zone play and forcing Jonas Hiller to make a save. On the ensuing faceoff they made the Flames look silly, winning the draw, getting a slap shot, and finishing with the easy tip-in. 2-0 Penguins
Being down 2-0 is pretty standard fare for these Flames, especially in the first. Towards the end of the period, they looked to be headed in the right direction with David Jones leading a rush. A neat passing play ended up being just out of the reach of Lance Bouma. This rush summed up the period for the Flames. Penguins outshot the good guys 11-7 and outcorsi’d them 16-15.
The second period began fast for the Flames, who found themselves with a 4-on-2 early on. Some nice passing lead to a Gio shot, but Fleury made the save. A little bit later, Johnny Gaudreau redirected a puck right into Kris Letang’s face. Scary moment, but Letang returned to the game.
Rafa Diaz took a penalty six minutes in for holding against Zach Sill. For the Flames’ 25th ranked penalty kill, the Penguins were a tough test. We’re talking about a team that can afford to have Evgeni Malkin hang around the point slappin’ shots on the man advantage. However the Flames performed valiantly, keeping the puck out of danger. One dump out nearly lead to a Matt Stajan breakaway, but the puck was too far and Fleury handled it. The PK performed above expectation, clearing the puck constantly, and limiting the Pens to just one shot.
Shortly after the Flames were down a man, they were up a man after Robert Bortuzzo shot the puck over the glass. Once again, the powerplay was effective at shooting, keeping the puck in the zone, and limiting time spent outside of the zone. It was not good at scoring. It was really no one’s fault, Marc-Andre Fleury was just playing out of his mind. The Penguins were also very good at limiting shots.
Fresh off the penalty kill, the Penguins found themselves on a crazy break. Kunitz set up Crosby, who simply just touched the puck for a goal. He didn’t shoot it, he just touched it with his stick (he was one handed too). Just watch it
I feel really bad for poor Paul Byron. Mighty Mouse is nothing compared to Super Sid. 3-0
Nothing much happened until Evgeni Malkin took a high sticking penalty against Dennis Wideman. Once again: good pressure, puck in zone, but no scoring. Rafa Diaz should also be staying on the powerplay. He’s pretty good at it.
The period ended with David Jones spilling the blood of former Prime Minister Paul Martin. The majority of the four minute powerplay would carry over into the third period. The period finished up without anything major happening. Flames were outshot yet again 12-7, and corsi was even at 18-18. Totals were 23-14 in shots and 34-33 in corsi, both favouring the Pens.
The third period began with about two-and-a-half minutes left on the David Jones penalty. Once again, the Flames were good at the penalty kill, not allowing the Penguins to shoot. It was the only good aspect this game.
A little bit after the penalty expired, Sidney Crosby scored again. After another nice pass from Kunitz, he kind of just walked by Brodie and Giordano. It looked pretty embarrassing. 4-0
Hiller got the axe, and Ramo finished the game.
The final 15 minutes of the game was nothing too exciting, a lot of back and forth play. The Flames’ typical third period boost was killed by the pure destructive power of Sidney Crosby. Regardless, they still took a crack at solving Fleury, to no avail. He made a highlight reel save, sprawling across the crease to stop Hudler. Later, he also robbed Jooris. A late Penguins penalty on David Perron resulted in nothing, and the game ended 4-0 for the visitors. Shots were 7-7 in the third, and corsi was 15-15. The final totals were 30-21 in shots and 49-48 in corsi, both for the Pens.
- Paul Byron (5’7", 153 pounds) had a pretty big hit on David Perron (6’0", 200 pounds) early in the game #grit.
- Matt Stajan was just a machine on the ice, at points looking like the only Flames player interested in playing the game. He was the driving force behind the Flames’ effective penalty kill.
- Speaking of which, congratulations to the penalty kill units. Without you, the game might be 20-0 or something else ridiculous.
- While on the topic of special teams, the aforementioned powerplay was great in all regards besides scoring. Rafa Diaz is a big factor in that, eating up five minutes of PP time, and being the team leader in shots. Sadly enough, this is the only time the Flames could have sustained pressure on the Penguins.
- I know I’m not supposed to compliment the bad guys, but Kunitz-Crosby-Perron were just a treat to watch. They are good at hockey.
- Lance Bouma should not be in the top six. He is too slow to keep up with Backlund and Jones, and the line suffered because of it. He is a hard worker, but so is Mason Raymond, who gives just as much effort without the physical edge. Put Raymond in the top six, and put Bouma back on the third line. That’s where he is scoring; Bouma is definitively better at scoring against bottom six players than he is against top six players.
- It was just a bad game all around. There’s really nothing super special to note here. The Flames are not much compared to the Penguins.
Winnipeg got a loser point in a 2-1 overtime loss against the Blackhawks, giving them the edge in the wild card. If Vancouver wins tomorrow against the Penguins, then the Flames will drop back down to the #8 seed. Fortunately, the closest competition is six points behind Calgary. While it was a bad game, take comfort that the Flames didn’t suffer too much in the playoff picture.
The Flames are back in action in San Jose on Monday, at 8:30 mountain time. See you then!