Home sweet home, right? The Brier over, the Calgary Flames have finally returned to their own barn. Their first guest after an eastern swing? The division-leading Anaheim Ducks, the one Pacific team that has given the Flames fits this season. It turned out pretty okay, after all.
Home sweet home, indeed, as the Ducks set up shop immediately, looking far more comfortable to be in the confines of the Saddledome than its actual occupants. It took just 22 seconds for David Jones to stop looking, thinking, or functioning in general as he dished the puck right to Ryan Getzlaf, who is not on his team. He is on the Anaheim Ducks. And he got to walk in all alone and score, just 22 seconds in, putting his own team up 1-0.
There was a great deal of anger present on both teams, and upon Michael Ferland deciding to snow John Gibson during a routine save, a scrum broke out. For some reason, Brandon Bollig was the only guy to get a penalty out of that mess. Maybe the refs want Hartley to stop playing him as much as the general population of the Flames fanbase? Emile Poirier? Drew Shore? Where are you??
Anyway it was a very short-lived powerplay for the Ducks, as 39 seconds later Getzlaf was once again wide open, and had an easy shot to put the opposition up 2-0 just under three minutes in.
It was nearly 3-0 as Jiri Sekac beat David Schlemko wide, but Karri Ramo moved over just quick enough to stymie him. This seemed to wake the Flames up, as right after the top line manouevered their way through the offensive zone, culminating with a Jiri Hudler pass from the corner to a streaking Sean Monahan, only to be foiled by Gibson.
With the Flames getting that much-needed offensive zone pressure, Deryk Engelland decided to be completely counterintuitive for reasons unknown. He got into a fight with Patrick Maroon, and while he had the takedown, it meant literally nothing on the scoreboard. He did get to sit for five minutes, though!
And what a five minutes it was. Corey Perry was off for hooking at the same time, but it ended up being a fruitless powerplay for the Flames. Mostly we just saw Johnny Gaudreau fan on the puck a lot.
It was killed, but no worries. Immediately after, Kyle Palmieri turned the puck right over to Kris Russell. Matt Stajan ended up with it, shot it, collected his own rebound, and put it right in for real, cutting the Ducks' lead in half.
Another turnover, a Schlemko schot from the point, and Gaudreau tipped it down and in past Gibson. Immediately, the refs decided it was a high stick, and upon review, the call was officially waived off. Which was bizarre, because I'm pretty sure Gaudreau can't reach the crossbar, even when wearing skates.
In protest and solidarity, Dennis Wideman went off for high sticking. This penalty kill was significantly better than the first, however, as they did a much better job keeping the Ducks out of their zone, successfully denying them a chance to score.
Enter: the Flames' top line. Enter: Johnny Gaudreau, he who will not be denied, as he streaked up the middle, the ultimate beneficiary of yet another Ducks turnover, to shoot the puck, spinning, right off both posts and in, tying the game at two.
AND THEN Monahan ended up going in all alone. He made some excellent moves to completely twist Gibson inside out, leaving him with the wide open net to pot the puck into. And he would have, too, had he not totally missed it, giving Gibson the chance to redeem himself with a crazy save that never should have been.
The period ended with one last powerplay, courtesy of Jakob Silfverberg closing his hand on the puck. The excitement was over, however, as both teams left the first tied at two, shots 16-11 for the Flames, and the corsi at 19 for all.
That tied corsi count would very quickly get blown out of the water, as the Ducks decided to set up shop in the Flames' zone. For nearly two and a half minutes. Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, Mikael Backlund, Lance Bouma, and David Jones were left breathless, floundering, and just plain desperate to knock the puck out and go for the long change as they were extremely fortunate the Ducks could not capitalize on what was essentially an extended powerplay for them. It was moderately horrifying.
A thing that was nice was a couple of Flames odd man rushes once they were freed. A thing that was less nice was the fact that they couldn't get a shot off on any of them.
A thing that was very nice was a goal. Ferland streaking up the wing and throwing the puck on net, resulting in it going off of Stajan and in to give the Flames their first lead of the game? To give Stajan his second goal of the game and Ferland his second ever NHL point? Very nice.
Getzlaf being called for roughing 35 seconds after and sending the Flames to the powerplay, on which Wideman picked up the puck before giving it to Monahan? Monahan, who held on, didn't lose it, and buried a nice wrister to put the Flames up 4-2? Also nice.
The Ducks used up their timeout because hahahaha. Also hahahaha: Getzlaf watching Gaudreau go right by him, realizing what he'd just done, freaking out and immediately going for the hold to try to stop him, resulting in back-to-back penalties nearly as fast as his back-to-back goals.
And when, say, on that second powerplway, Gaudreau danced right into the zone, had a nice little give-and-go with Wideman, and left us all staring in awe as the Flames went up 5-2? Well, that's extremely nice, too.
Everything was fun times! Josh Jooris may have then taken an interference call, but Ryan Kesler tripping Bouma on the powerplay helped cancel that out. Which ended up being kind of unfortunate, as the four-on-four play resulted in Rafa Diaz being outworked by Perry, who passed it to an open Hampus Lindholm in the slot, who blasted it right past Ramo to cut the lead to two.
... But it was still a pretty fun period, with the Flames leading 5-3. They had four shots all period, scoring on three, which was incredible and as unsustainable as it was hilarious. Overall, the Ducks were outshooting the Flames 23-20, and out-corsiing them 39-30.
The last time the Flames entered the third period with a lead on the Ducks, the Ducks scored five goals. This is not an ideal scenario. It is also one that would not repeat itself.
Andrew Cogliano kicked things off by very blatantly tripping Monahan, gifting the Flames with their sixth powerplay of the game. Big Joe Colborne, hanging in front of the net and using his big body as a screen, did have a chance to use his shootout-worthy hands to tuck it in, but Gibson had him, and the penalty was successfully killed.
The Flames maintained their tenuous grip ton their two-goal lead as the Ducks, increasingly desperate, continued to out-possess and out-shoot them. Simon Despres danced around TJ Brodie, but Ramo stayed with him, and had a great save immediately after to preserve the all-important multi-goal lead.
The Ducks were completely dominating pressure, but that didn't stop Bouma from nearly adding to their lead. Gibson slightly misplayed the puck, nearly allowing Backlund a perfect dish to his top six winger, but saved the day himself.
He and his defence then promptly ruined it. Backlund dumped the puck in, and a funny bounce off the end boards left Anaheim chasing and running into each other, including Gibson. This allowed Hudler to cooly corral the puck trickling out and nail it, restoring the Flames' three-goal lead on their second shot of the period.
Gaudreau nearly got his hat trick right after, but Silfverberg tied him up just enough to stop him without taking a penalty. The wind seemed completely stripped from the Ducks' wings, though. When once they were firmly controlling the period, in the game's dying minutes, all they could do was give up chances to the Flames, including another for Hudler.
That was pretty much it. Bob Hartley was very nice and put Stajan in between Gaudreau and Hudler, giving him a much-improved chance at a hat trick. He and Gaudreau nearly combined on a goal as well, but Gaudreau was unable to receive his pass, and so, the two had to settle for merely two-goal games as their team roasted the Ducks, 6-3.
Shots were 32-23 for the Ducks, and corsi favoured them to a 62-37 stint as well. Score effects!
Flame of the game
Oh boy. This one's gotta go to Johnny Gaudreau, who was simply electrifying. Gaudreau had two goals - and maybe probably should have had a hat trick - to help carry the Flames to a much-needed victory over these quackers. He reached the 50 point mark in his first season (the first Flames rookie to do so since one Jarome Iginla!), continuing to tell all the doubters to buzz off, because size is very clearly not an issue here. Especially not when he played 19:51, the most out of all Flames forwards. He is now three points back of Filip Forsberg for the lead in rookie scoring in two fewer games played. Johnny Hockey is already an NHL star, and this is just the beginning.
- A couple of other guys deserve some major shoutouts, too. Like the much-maligned Stajan, forced into a fourth line role and, what with the inexplicably insistence on playing Bollig, unfortunately made to be his linemate most of the time. He couldn't get the hat trick, but increasing his goal total to seven is gladly taken.
- Stajan is now riding a four-game point streak. Backlund's looked about to end, but Hudler's goal to ice it allowed his streak to extend to six games.
- Monahan nearly had two goals himself. Something he did have: five shots in the first period. The sixth, and his final of the game, was the charm.
- Speaking of shots, after leading the Ducks in the first period, the Flames had seven total shots the rest of the game. Forty minutes. Seven shots. Four goals. That... sounds about right. RIP in pieces, John Gibson's save percentage.
- Speaking of the hilarity that is the Anaheim Ducks, things didn't look super fun when Getzlaf quickly put his team up 2-0. Things got pretty hilarious when he took back-to-back penalties, though. The Ducks were tied. Getzlaf struck. The Ducks were down 4-2. That's awesome. Bye Ryan.
- Kind of a fun moment when Ferland went to hit James Wisniewski, only for Wisniewski to crouch and send Ferland somersaulting over him instead.
- And kind of a bizarre moment when Engelland and Bollig shared the ice... while the Flames were sustaining offensive zone pressure. I did not know that was a thing that could happen. It happened, like, at least twice.
- Russell and Wideman had exceptional games, with three assists apiece. Russell blocked two shots, and Wideman none. When you score more points than block shots, it's a good day. May Russell's body be pain-free for the remainder of the season, and beyond.
... Bob Hartley learned how to balance his goalies? This is nothing against Ramo, who was great tonight. Or Jonas Hiller, who has been great all season. Hartley just constantly gets zeroed in on one goalie's performance and forgets about the other until the first goalie totally blows it. After years upon years of Miikka Kiprusoff, when the Flames suddenly have two good goalies available... I just want to see some balance! I'm liking where things are right now, but balance!!
... somebody saved Brodie? Engelland completely dragged him down again. Russell and Wideman were great as a top pairing this game, but Brodie is the Flames' best defenceman and he is not only being wasted, but absolutely destroyed by being forced to play with someone who is, honestly, rather terrible. It's so bad. It will never be good. For the love of all that is holy and Brodie, please, please, please make it stop. The Flames are winning in spite of this right now, not because of it.
ANYWAY, THAT WAS FUN. The Flames continue to deny all logic and remain extremely entertaining while doing so. Let's keep that up. The next game is against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 13, and it is my understanding they want nothing more than to lose always and forever now, so it would be rude not to oblige them.
Also, it's a Friday the 13th game, but the hockey gods already took Mark Giordano from us and have rendered Brodie useless by proxy of the Flames' head coach and something apparently called "veteran leadership", so what more can happen, anyway?! (PROTECT MONAHAN AND BACKLUND AT ALL COSTS.) I'm going to go knock on every piece of wood I can find now. See you then!