Matthew Tkachuk scored 2 goals, Chad Johnson stopped 26 of 28 shots and the Flames managed to survive a rough third period and beat the Sharks 3-2.
The big news of the day was that Matthew Tkachuk would be in the line up tonight. This was of significance because this would be his 10th game of the season. By dressing him, the Flames have chosen to keep him up with the team and start the clock on his first year of his Entry-Level contract. Seemed like the right move; in limited ice-time Tkachuk has looked solid through the eye test, put up points and posted strong shot differentials while getting terrible zone starts. He is already one of the Flames’ best forwards so it makes sense to keep him around. In other news, Chad Johnson got the start in net after 5 games in a row of Brian Elliott. It is nice to have 2 goalies where you do not feel dread upon hearing that one of them is starting.
The Flames came out of the gate taking penalties. A too many men penalty 20 seconds in was killed off, shortly followed by an interference penalty by Alex Chiasson. A little later in the period, Brett Kulak was held by Joonas Donskoi which led to him high sticking Donskoi and drawing blood. The first penalties were offset, but Kulak recieved a double-minor so the Flames went to the penalty-kill again, where they once again shut down the sharks. Then, by some miracle, there was an infraction on Gaudreau and it was called, getting the Flames on the PP, which they failed to capitalize on. There was a lot of special teams play in this period that did not generate much, and ultimately it was 0-0 after 1, shots 7-7.
Kris Versteeg was missing to start the second period, he appeared to have caught a rut on the ice in the corner near the end of the first period. He did not return. It looked like he was in some serious discomfort so hopefully he is okay, but he may miss some time.
With Versteeg out, there was a bit of line juggling for Gulutzan to do throughout the period. The play generally was in the favour of the Sharks for the earlier part of the period, but they failed to capitalize on their couple of dangerous chances around the net. Johnson was pretty solid as well. The Flames finally broke the tie late in the second. Sam Bennett took a hit along the boards to get the puck down low to Micheal Ferland, who threw a nice behind the net pass out front to Troy Brouwer who buried it in the open net past Martin Jones, who was looking the other way. Really nice pass by Ferland, 1-0 Flames. Less than 2 minutes later, Deryk Engelland (yes, Deryk Engelland) led the rush into the Sharks zone and gave a drop pass to Matthew Tkachuk, who moved in a bit and somehow fired a shot through Jones. Already paying off to keep that guy around. So after kind of drifting through the game but not giving anything up, the Flames were suddenly up 2-0 after 2. Shots in the period were 10-10.
The third period was not pretty from the Flames’ perspective. Sam Bennett’s late second period penalty carried over to the third, and on the powerplay a Brent Burns shot from the blueline got past Chad Johnson to get the Sharks on the board. The Flames failed to generate anything on their second powerplay of the game, then the Sharks tied it up when Melker Karlsson tipped a Vlasic shot on a play that Chad Johnson had no chance of stopping. The Sharks were absolutely dominating the shots in the third as well, it was 8-1 for them in the period at one point.
With things looking pretty dismal for Calgary, guess who stepped up and saved the day? Deryk Engelland once again jumped up into the rush, got the puck to Frolik, who found Tkachuk with a beautiful cross-ice pass. Tkachuk made a sick move in tight on Jones and buried the game-winner. It was just the third shot of the period for the Flames, but Johnson’s strong performance helped carry them to victory. Flames win a big divisional match up, 3-2. Shots in the third were 11-5 for the Sharks.
Flames 3 Stars
- Matthew Tkachuk: After finding out that the Flames were keeping him with the team, Tkachuk had his biggest night so far in the NHL. He continued to engage physically, he constantly was getting under the skin of the opposition. Most importantly, he can play very well. His 2 goal game was the difference maker.
- Chad Johnson: Elliott found his groove and got to play a bunch of games in a row. Today the Flames went back to Johnson and he did not disappoint. He was solid, both goals allowed were from the blueline and through traffic. He stopped 26 out of 28 shots against.
- Deryk Engelland: Engelland plays very well with Kulak and Gulutzan needs to keep them together. Both of Tkachuk’s goals were created by Engelland jumping up into the offensive zone. He also posted a 57.14% Corsi For at even strength (courtesy of hockeystats.ca). That is a big night out of your third pair defender.
- I love the game of Sam Bennett, but too many penalties, man. Apparently he leads the NHL in minor-penalties taken. The Flames PK is not great, so that really hurts the team. It did again tonight.
- Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik is the best line on the team at this point. Backlund and Frolik have been the best forwards by far to this point and Tkachuk has continued to get better.
- Tough to see Versteeg leave with an injury, hopefully he is okay as he is a big part of the team’s depth on the wing. If he is going to miss some time, perhaps we see the return of Hunter Shinkaruk?
- If they bring up Shinkaruk, put him on the first line. Chiasson just does not create much and Monahan has been terrible so far this season. Gaudreau is all on his own out there and he is struggling to get things done. Maybe another forward that can be creative out there with him would be of benefit. Whatever the case, it is not working right now.
- The powerplay was really bad once again. The PK was solid early, but they gave a dangerous Sharks team too many chances on the man-advantage and eventually they paid for it.
- Thankfully the Flames won this game in regulation after squandering a 2-0 lead. It is not a best practice to be handing out points to your division rivals.
The Flames are heading out to LA to face the Kings on Saturday night, followed by a dreaded visit to Anaheim on Sunday. A couple big games this weekend, it will be interesting to see how they fare.