The Flames' schedule only has them playing nine more games before the end of the season. The Flames would like to extend that number. Tonight was the chance to do that, as they faced the Dallas Stars at home. The Stars have also been battling for their playoff lives, eight points out of the wild card. Playoff atmosphere? Playoff atmosphere.
As you may already know, the Flames really aren’t that great at the first period. Bad first period play is often why the Flames find themselves coming back in the third. This one started pretty poorly. Not even three minutes into the game, the Flames had iced the puck six times. Three of those times were the fourth line, including Brandon Bollig’s dumping in the puck from just slightly before centre. Yeesh.
All this icing let the Stars get some easy shot attempts in, but the Flames started to battle back from their earlier gaffes. However, it was still the first period, and the first period Flames are the worst Flames. One of their few tries at getting some offensive zone pressure resulted in an offensive zone penalty, as a blood thirsty Markus Granlund highsticked Jordie Benn, resulting in four minutes of 5-on-4.
The Flames were still icing the puck during the penalty kill, but that’s okay because that’s when you need to do it. Besides the five minutes against Toronto, this was probably one of Calgary’s finest penalty kills on the season. The special teams frustrated the Stars, clearing the puck and taking away shooting lanes. Karri Ramo was lights-out during the penalty kill, saving some quality Dallas shots. Joe Colborne even outraced someone for a puck and was able to get a scoring chance, but to no avail.
After four minutes shorthanded, the game started getting good again. Each team was getting good pressure in each other’s zone, but the momentum favoured Calgary. The first line began to work their magic and up the Flames’ pathetic shot count. The Stars’ Kari Lehtonen (minus the r) was also doing great, handling the pressure. Mikael Backlund even ripped off an absolute stunner of a shot, only to be denied by the crossbar.
Then Lance Bouma had to go shove John Klingberg into Kari Lehtonen. That truculence would cost him two minutes of his time, and Calgary would go on the penalty kill for the third time this period. Once again, the wonderful penalty kill eliminated all threat of goal scoring. The Stars only got one shot attempt, and no shots on goal.
And that was all she wrote for the first period! Dallas led shots 13-6, and corsi 24-10. The Flames planned to stop icing the puck in the second period.
The second period began even worse than the first period, somehow. A David Jones turnover and a Patrik Nemeth pass led to an Ales Hemsky breakout. After entering the zone, he was faced with Kris Russell "defending" him. Russell watched as Hemsky shot, scored, and celebrated. 1-0 Stars.
The Flames decided to start the comeback immediately, getting the pressure on the Stars. A Dennis Wideman slapshot went off the back of the neck of Antoine Roussel. He stayed down on the ice for a little while, and eventually got back up and went to the locker room. Very scary moment, but before the injury he was interfering with Lance Bouma. The merciless refs gave the Flames their first powerplay of the game.
Despite their recent success, the powerplay was not doing so hot. Maybe it was the Stars being able to take away shooting lanes, but I’d like to blame this on the only play being "set Dennis Wideman up for the slap shot." It doesn’t work, Bob. However, the Stars couldn’t stop getting in their own way. After clearing the zone, Cody Eakin blatantly tripped Mason Raymond in the open ice. The Flames would get a 5-on-3 for 57 seconds.
Hartley wisely deployed the Gaudreau-Monahan-Hudler line for the two man advantage, and it worked. For the most part. Despite excellent pressure and tons of opportunities, they simply couldn’t get it past Lehtonen. After the first penalty expired, the Flames couldn’t keep the pressure going, and the last minute expired without much ado. They didn’t even get a shot attempt on the 5-on-4.
Not much happened between penalties, and the Stars got yet another chance on the powerplay when Joe Colborne held up Jordie Benn, a very unnecessary penalty. The penalty killers looked to once again shut down the Stars and their star-studded powerplay.
The fourth time around, the Stars had solved it. Tyler Seguin passed to a wide open Jason Spezza. Kris Russell totally misread the play and started sliding towards Spezza to try and block the shot. Despite what people might’ve told you, Spezza did not pull off a filthy toe-drag, but rather simply moved out of the way at the guy slowly sliding at him. The former Senator passed it to Jamie Benn, the guy Russell was covering before. 2-0 Stars.
Maybe there's something inherently wrong in the "block everything" philosophy of defence. Thinking an experienced vet like Jason Spezza would simply flick on panic mode and shoot when he got the puck was a complete mistake, but the way Hartley coaches this team suggests that Russell thought that blocking was the first matter of business rather than actually playing defence.
Down 2-0 is a pretty normal thing for the Flames, and it looked like the fans would have to sit through ten more minutes of the second period before much would happen. The Flames delivered happiness a little bit earlier than expected. After Deryk Engelland forced a turnover at the blue line, the first line entered the zone. With some pretty passing around some confused Stars, Johnny Gaudreau put the puck between the pipes and started the comeback. 2-1 Calgary.
The Flames weren’t done there just quite yet. With momentum on their side, the Flames took under a minute to score again. After excellent forechecking from Mikael Backlund and Josh Jooris forced a bad turnover that wound up in the hands of TJ Brodie, the unspeakable happened.
You may need to watch that a few times. Yes, that is Deryk Engelland scoring a goal. In just over 60 seconds of play, Deryk Engelland made important contributions to goals. Cherish it. 2-2 tie.
#29 scoring a goal truly signalled the end times, as the game got crazy thereafter. The Stars gained the zone and forced Karri Ramo to make some scrambling saves. Then the Flames got some good chances. Good enough to force Jason Spezza to take a tripping call against Jiri Hudler. The Flames got about an extra minute of powerplay time on the 6-on-5, but only had one shot attempt.
Once again, the 5-on-4 powerplay was not doing so hot. Jamie Benn had a great scoring chance on a breakout from the zone, and then Diaz tripped him up for 50 seconds of 4-on-4; something the Flames are good at!
I feel that every time I talk about the Flames being good at 4-on-4, they proceed to perform badly at the 4-on-4. This was no exception. Lance Bouma couldn’t control the puck along the boards, and Shawn Horcoff shoved him off the puck. He flew down the left wing, and was pressured by TJ Brodie to throw it to the front of the ice. Thankfully, Ales Hemsky was there for the easy tap in goal late in the period. 3-2 Dallas.
Also, the Spezza penalty ended shortly after the Hemsky goal, giving the Stars about a minute of powerplay time afterwards. It didn’t look good.
The second ended with the Flames leading possession metrics: 15-9 in shots, and 25-20 in corsi.
The Calgary Flames were down 3-2, allowed a late second period goal, and began the third on the penalty kill. Thankfully, they left the game, and the Calgary Third Periods subbed in for them. The remaining 58 seconds on the penalty kill were spent more in the Dallas zone than the Calgary zone.
The Flames turned the pressure up, but couldn’t get out of their own way. Mikael Backlund held Jamie Benn back for another two minutes on the penalty kill. Sigh. However, the Flames were very good during these two minutes. The Stars stayed in the Flames’ zone for the majority of the penalty kill, but the Flames kept them off the score sheet.
The back-and-forth play continued for most of the period, but the Flames started taking the upper hand. As we have seen time and time again, they were simply outplaying the Stars, and were able to stay in the offensive zone. The good pressure and good shooting led to "it" happening again.
Yes, Deryk Engelland scored twice in one game. Scientists around the nation were scrambling to explain the anomaly. 3-3 tie game.
And then the hearts started beating. Calgary was playing for two more points for better position in the playoff race, the Stars were playing for two points to stay in the playoff race. Twenty seconds after the second Engelland goal, Curtis McKenzie boarded TJ Brodie, and the penalty box door swung again.
The Flames took every advantage possible during the two minutes, tossing nearly everything at the net. Momentum was completely on their side, and they tried to capitalize. Kari Lehtonen stuffed them at every opportunity, and the game remained tied.
Then the Stars came down the ice and Ales Hemsky nearly completed his hat trick, knocking the puck in on a goalmouth scramble. However, the refs disagreed and upon further review, they correctly ruled it no goal due to goalie interference. The combined exhale from Flames and Stars fans could probably push a sailboat across an ocean.
Each team was so desperate to get two points, and the Stars took over at the end of the period. Mainly thanks to a very, very, very dirty hit by Joe Colborne on Ales Hemsky. It was a deliberate headshot, and it would not be surprising for Colborne to get a call tomorrow from Chris Pronger. Once again, the Flames spent two minutes in the box.
The final few minutes were perhaps the most stress-inducing, heart rate-raising, and sweaty moments of Flames’ fans lives for the past few years. They were also some of the most awesome moments any of the faithful had felt in a long time. This is what meaningful hockey feels like, and it was amazing.
The longest two minutes in recorded history were all Stars. They got a few good shots off, and kept the pressure on. It looked to be a pointless night for the Flames, but thanks to a few key clearances, they were able to shut down the penalty kill for one last time tonight.
Regulation solved nothing, and off to OT we went. The Flames led shots 12-7 in the third, and corsi 19-18.
Those who were trying to regain a normal heartbeat during the break had very little time before the excitement broke out again. Overtime was a very back and forth period for both teams, with each team breaking out fast and trying to score that crucial goal. The Flames showed some great pressure early on, but unfortunately turned the puck over to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Many goalies would attempt the David Leggio in this case, but Ramo stood tall, preventing an OT loss for the Flames.
Deryk Engelland was having the game of his career, and attempted to be the OT hero after being sprung on a break by Lance Bouma. His heroic effort came up short, thanks to Kari Lehtonen once again.
OT solved nothing, and off to the shootout we went. It was very anti-climactic.
Bold = Scored
And so the Flames lost to the Stars 4-3 in the shootout. Final shots were 34-30 for Calgary, but corsi was 69-57 for Dallas.
- Deryk Engelland actually had a monster game tonight. Goals withstanding, he did have (preview for tomorrow's stat recap) a 54% CF with 25% OZS, which is numbers we have never seen from him before.
- Both Kar(r)is were excellent tonight. The game really could've been a blowout for either side had it not been for the goaltending.
- Despite allowing one goal, the penalty kill did do very well tonight, considering they had to play disadvantaged seven times tonight.
- The three Stars goals were from a turnover, shoddy defence, and a turnover. The Flames are in control of their own fate for the last few games, and things like these are preventable and only cost games. Mental lapses like these could be the difference between playoffs and golfing.
- The refs liked their whistles a bit too much tonight. A lot of the calls were very ticky-tacky, and some of the same scenarios would not be called during the game. The Benn brothers also drew four penalties tonight, so there's definitely a conspiracy here.
- One of the calls they did get right was Joe Colborne's penalty against Hemsky. The league doesn't need that sort of stuff in the game, and Colborne is going to have to take the fall for that stupid hit. Good riddance.
The NHL was very low key tonight, with the only other game of relevance to the Flames being the Colorado-Edmonton affair. Colorado's valiant comeback efforts were stopped short in a 4-3 loss to the team up north. You guys do know you're missing out on McDavid, right?
The Flames play in Minnesota on Friday for another one of those oh-so-important four point games. Start time is 6 PM. Hope to see you in the gamethread!