Brian Elliott was the man, stopping 33 of 34 shots as well as denying all 7 shooters in the shootout, leading the Flames to a 3-2 win over the Blackhawks. Elliott shut the door through a tumultuous Calgary OT and denied every Blackhawk in the shootout, until Kris Versteeg scored in the 7th round to win the game.
Unlike a lot of other games this season, the Flames started the game off very well, getting the first few shots of the game. Johnny Gaudreau drew a tripping call, which sent the Flames generally brutal powerplay to work. However, there was good news for tonight’s game. The Blackhawks came into this game with a 42.9% efficiency of killing off penalties through 6 games, unbelievably bad. If there was any game for the Flames to break out of their PP slump, this could be the one. And it was. A Dougie Hamilton point shot trickled through Corey Crawford, and with Sam Bennett and Micheal Ferland both crashing the net in tight, Bennett was able to knock the puck in for his first of the season, making the Flames 1-for-1 on the powerplay.
The Flames had a good first period. They were a lot tighter structurally, they were skating hard and winning puck battles and they created a good handful of scoring chances. Sean Monahan was robbed by Crawford on a nice passing sequence with Chiasson and Gaudreau, Bennett was stopped on a backhand effort after he threw a big hit and Versteeg was denied on a partial break.
It was one of the best first periods for the Flames all season, up 1-0 and leading shots 14 to 8. But could they sustain it?
Patrick Kane tied the game just a minute and a half into the second, after a turnover by Deryk Engelland trying to exit the zone. Engelland had a few bad turnovers in this game. However, the Flames bounced back instead of caving in. On their second powerplay of the game, a Mark Giordano one-timer blast from the point was stopped by Crawford, but Sean Monahan easily tucked in the rebound to put the Flames back up on top. 2 powerplays, 2 goals. Yes, the Blackhawks penalty-kill is terrible, but it was nice to see the Flames powerplay get some results while looking good, that has to help boost confidence going forward.
The second period was a lot more even, but the Flames continued to play well, creating a good array of scoring chances, entering the offensive zone efficiently and generally looking like an NHL team. They were physical too, at the halfway point of the game, the hit count was 26 to 5 in favour of the Flames.
2-1 Flames after 2, shots in the period were 11-8 for Calgary.
In the third period, the Blackhawks started pressing and Brian Elliott started showing everyone the high quality goaltending that he was brought in to provide. He made a big save early in the period off of Marian Hossa coming out from behind the net. The Blackhawks would tie it a little later, as a Brian Campbell pass attempt went off of T.J. Brodie’s stick and through Elliott to tie the game.
Johnny Gaudreau had a very busy game and while he was unable to find the scoresheet, he was dangerous, with many scoring chances and pulling off high skill level plays successfully, not looking like he was forcing it like he had in previous games. Micheal Ferland hammered a shot off the crossbar with about 5 minutes left. With 10 seconds left in regulation, the Flames had a complete breakdown in their own zone and almost gave the game away, but Brian Elliott made a massive save on Richard Panik to send the game to OT.
The Blackhawks took over in the third, outshooting the Flames 11-5, but they were off to OT for the third time this season.
Michael Frolik turned the puck over to Artemi Panarin and in order to prevent a breakaway for the dangerous Russian, Frolik took a holding penalty. That meant the Flames had to kill off a 4-on-3 penalty for 2 minutes, facing Keith, Toews, Panarin and Kane. Scary. A combination of Elliott making good saves, the Flames limiting the number of chances surrendered and Chicago’s unwillingness to shoot helped the Flames kill it off.
The Flames survived OT despite being outshot 6-1 thanks to Elliott and were off to a shootout.
This was an intense shootout. Both Brian Elliott and Corey Crawford shut the door in net. Toews, Gaudreau, Kane, Brouwer, Panarin, Monahan, Anisimov, Bennett, Panik, Backlund, Hossa, Giordano and Schmaltz all failed to score, before the 14th shooter, Kris Versteeg, went in and made a nice deke on Crawford to score in the 7th round. The Flames won in Chicago!
Flames 3 Stars
- Brian Elliott: Elliott is not a bad goaltender. Trust the people who say such things. He showed why today. He was the backbone of this team, not being tested much for the first couple periods, but when the Blackhawks upped their intensity in the third period and overtime, Elliott made many great saves and was the difference maker. Now that he has that first win under his belt, things should move forward more nicely.
- Sam Bennett: Sam Bennett had a good game. He scored that early powerplay goal by crashing the net and continued to create chances all game. He also had a couple really nice hits. Him and Brouwer are a good pair.
- Johnny Gaudreau: He had an assist on Sean Monahan’s goal taken away from him, so he was off the scoresheet, but this was Gaudreau’s best game of the season. He was noticeable the entire game, consistently making dangerous plays at his will, and while he was not rewarded for it, he will be soon.
- The Flames only took 2 penalties! That makes it so much easier on the entire team, especially when facing a team like the Blackhawks.
- They scored 2 powerplay goals also! They finished 2-for-5 on the powerplay and even on the later powerplays in the game, they were actually entering the zone well and making chances for themselves. There was some power in it this time.
- I do not remember many games in recent years where the Flames went to Chicago and did not get completely dominated. The Blackhawks depth has been seriously hurt, but it was nice to see the Flames go and play a respectable game at the United Centre.
- The team’s record is 2-4-1 now. Not what any of us were hoping for to start the season, but it is not 0-7. They dug a little hole, but they can crawl out of it. There is a long season ahead and if they play games like they played tonight and get goaltending like they did tonight, there is still plenty of hope.
The Flames are back at it tomorrow night, for Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott’s return to St.Louis. Will Elliott be in goal again? Can the powerplay continue being competent? Are back-to-back wins too much to ask for? We shall find out tomorrow.