Calgary needed a strong outing in all three periods tonight after the #NeverQuit mentality dominated the game three. The return of Lance Bouma was a welcome sight for fans but it didn't fully ignite the team above and beyond where they should have been aiming collectively.
First Period -
Early into the first period you saw a persistent attack on the Russell/Wideman pairing that was a constant theme throughout. Aggressive play on the pairing has been a notable crux for them and will lead to opportunities when pushed to the brink.
Continued lapses in the defensive zone by the Engelland/Brodie pairing showed up as well as Andrew Cogliano was left alone to skate in on Karri Ramo, who stood firm on the sequence. Off a defensive zone faceoff, Joe Colborne high-sticked Corey Perry but... Lance Bouma was called on the play? The Ducks got a great break early on to jump on the man advantage.
The initial part of the Flames' first penalty kill started out on a semi-positive note as the tandem of Monahan and Backlund did head up ice on a play but lapses after that and allowing a clean entry by the Ducks resulted in Jakob Silfverberg's third of the post-season.
Fortunately for the Flames, Johnny Gaudreau (you know, that really amazing Calder finalist) came prepared with a few tricks of his own.
A fantastic zone entry on the rush with Sean Monahan heading to the net for a delicate tap in tied the game. The Flames top line finally started showing the play that made them deadly down the stretch in the regular season. Gaudreau obliterated everyone on his path towards the net on the play giving life to the Flames early on.
Not wanting to be outdone by the extravagant Gaudreau, a now healthy Micheal Ferland made his mark felt, taking advantage of Matt Stajan's impeccable positioning and luck with avoiding an interference call to rip home his third of the post-season. Once again, we need to ask: Is Ferland relevant yet?
With the Flames in the lead, they continued to find small calculated plays that created relatively small but successful shots on net. Little things like these have been hard to come by in the series and when you have Backlund creating small intervals of magic, it adds up immensely.
As the period continued towards the intermission, Anaheim continued to take advantage of key areas of the neutral zone like they have all series long. Small puck battles and heading up ice resulted in more ice time in the defensive zone. Coupled within that was a continued assault on the Russell/Wideman pairing. Late in the period, a failed attempt to clear the puck by Wideman resulted in the Ducks creating some significant late pressure.
Shots: 11-9 for the Flames!
Some thoughts after one period:
- The small, seemingly not so noticeable wins in the NZ by the Ducks are still a problem for the Flames. Cleanly entering the zone and getting shot attempts off (despite not being high danger at times) add up.
- Calgary avoided any serious undisciplined play that has creeped into their post-season. Kudos to Ferland for not getting involved with former Flame Tim Jackman. Still, the only black mark was the Bouma penalty.
- Carrying in the puck is becoming an easier task for the Flames as they're getting in. Now, they just need to find themselves heading to the net more while on the rush. Big things happen when they do this. Two goals on the rush is proof enough.
Second Period -
Despite having perhaps one of their best first periods of the post-season and more importantly one of the best against Anaheim, the Ducks came out flying. A persistent forecheck of an atypical Anaheim agenda continued to take advantage of a jittery Calgary Flames club. They had forgotten what they did in the first period that made them successful.
An uncalled interference penalty on Corey Perry which resulted in Ramo being knocked down dismayed the fans in the Dome. Gaudreau, looking to put the play on his back, had a fantastic chance on net but it was the luck of Andersen's cuff stopping a perfect shot that would have been a sure goal. Conversely emotions and scrums similar to the first round against Vancouver started boiling over.
Off-setting penalties to Deryk Engelland and Nate Thompson produced four on four play that didn't create much for either team. Though the most exciting part of the four on four was it ending as Engelland was sprung on a partial breakaway getting a shot on net. One day, Deryk...one day you'll score.
An impeccably timed too many men call sent the Ducks back on the power play which allowed the Flames to deploy a slightly more acceptable passive box. It worked initially, keeping the top unit to the perimeter, though the second unit late in the kill did find high quality shot locations. Despite the positives, a turnover by Gaudreau after the kill directly led to Cogliano's tying goal.
Hoping to redeem themselves, the Flames' top line did briefly come alive trying to generate a go-ahead goal though as time expired in the second period, Joe Colborne took what might have been one of his dumbest penalties of his career. Called as a "high-sticking double-minor" Calgary had to start the third down a man.
Shots: 9-8 in the period for Anaheim. 19-18 for Calgary through two periods.
Some additional thoughts on the second:
- Gaudreau's turnover was brutal. Just brutal.
- Why the heck was there NO CALL on Perry's clear interference on TJ Brodie? You could make a stretch towards assuming it was not called due to Matt Stajan's interference leading to Ferland's goal.
- Zero call on Perry's clear interference on Ramo as well. Where did the tight reffing go?
Problems continued to mount as the lack of offensive zone faceoff wins allowed more Ducks' breakouts to occur. With that, it also allowed for Anaheim to dictate the pace of play at various times and play an even more fervent approach of limiting Flames zone entries. With less than a minute left, Patrick Maroon ended it, making it 4-2 and potting his fourth of the playoffs.
Ducks win 4-2 and take a 3-1 series lead.
Shots: 11-8 in the period for Anaheim, 29-27 for the Ducks overall.
- Continued breakdowns with Ramo on the bench added to the conundrum that existed in the third period. Anaheim's ability to cripple zone entries even more than before really did the Flames in.
- The lack of Josh Jooris can be summed up in this:
Prior to this game, the Flames had five PPGA. Josh Jooris, with 20:11 SH TOI, led the entire team. One PPGA with him on the ice.— ari (@thirtyfourseven) May 9, 2015
- On the rush plays and heading to the net worked in one of three periods this evening. It dried up and it severely impacted the team. This team is fantastic while on the rush and if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to go back to this in game five.
- TJ Brodie had a bullseye on his back all night. Systemic targeting of the team's best defenseman worked this evening.
- At some point, playing David Schlemko and Raphael Diaz should be an option. Diaz had 7:26 tonight while Schlemko had 13:22. We saw Engelland take a hit on his TOI though it is most likely a result of his penalty.
- Kris Russell's shot quality and decision to fire the puck into a crowd is perplexing. The decision to move from the left point and into the high slot is starting to become comical as Anaheim reads it every time and heads up ice.
... Bob Hartley rolled a capable roster? Wait, we've been saying that for months. Seriously though, more ice time for Diaz, Schlemko, and less for a few notable players. It would go a long way. Plus, you know... not playing Bollig while sitting Josh Jooris.
I sound like a broken record but maybe, just maybe I'm right.
Game five which is on Sunday at 8:00 PM MST back in Anaheim. This time we won't be traveling to Orange County to see the Flames hopefully end the curse. It's not over yet, folks.