2 goals in a span of 13 seconds for Mikael Backlund in the second period put the Flames up 4-2 and they never looked back, taking a victory over the Florida Panthers in a game they thoroughly controlled.
The Flames continued their recent pattern of unfortunate starts to games. Vincent Trocheck maintained his hot streak for the Panthers by opening the scoring early in the first period, entering the Calgary zone and firing a shot over Chad Johnson to make it 1-0.
The Flames would tie it up a couple of minutes later on a very soft goal for Kris Versteeg, as Troy Brouwer provided a perfect screen in front of Roberto Luongo and Versteeg’s soft backhander found the back of the net through the traffic. A nice quick response for the Flames, just like the past game in Edmonton. However, the Panthers would go back ahead before the halfway point of the first period, as Matt Tkachuk’s missed shot lead to a Florida 3-on-1 where Trocheck scored a very similar looking goal to his first one. I said the guy was on a hot streak. 2 goals for the Panthers on 3 shots.
The Flames outplayed the Panthers but found themselves down 2-1 after the first period, outshooting them 10-5.
This period was beautiful if you are a supporter of the Calgary Flames. They would tie it up on an early second period powerplay, as the second unit came out halfway through the powerplay, had another one of their beautiful zone entries we have become accustomed to seeing, which resulted in Michael Frolik setting up Mark Giordano from behind the net, who fired it past Luongo. After continuing to maintain pressure at even strength, the best powerplay unit on the team struck again. Dougie Hamilton put the puck on net, Matthew Tkachuk tipped the puck up in the air behind Luongo and Mikael Backlund found the puck and tapped in his 13th of the season.
Just 13 seconds later, Mikael Backund scored again! Another smooth zone entry was shortly followed by a beautiful pass from Matthew Tkachuk behind the net and between the legs, to Mikael Backlund for his 14th goal of the season.
Just like that, a 2-2 game was suddenly a 4-2 lead for the Flames. An extremely well deserved 4-2 lead, as they were absolutely dominant in the second.
Before the period was up, it looked like a great shift by the 4th line would make the score 5-2, as the effort resulted in Freddie Hamilton rifling a shot past Luongo’s glove into the net. However, the goal was challenged by the Panthers for offside on Matt Stajan’s entry into the zone and the goal was taken back. Very unfortunate because the goal was scored about 20 seconds after the offside had taken place, but that is just how it goes sometimes.
It was one of the best periods of the season by the Flames. They outscored the Panthers 3-0 and outshot them 14-6, with the majority of Florida’s shots coming at the end of the period. The Flames headed into the third period with a 4-2 lead.
The Flames played an extremely effective period of shutdown hockey in the third. They continually pushed the play forward, surrendering nothing to the Panthers, constantly winning puck battles and really just playing a perfect game for a team being up by 2. Just over halfway through the period, Matt Stajan found Lance Bouma on a 2-on-1 and a nice play by Bouma in tight led to him putting the puck past Luongo. However, Florida Coach Tom Rowe challenged the play for offside again and it was found that the Flames were an inch offside for the second time in the game. The 4th line had a terrific game but was robbed of 2 goals for the closest of offsides. A shame they were not rewarded on the scoresheet for their great play.
The Flames continued to shutdown the Panthers and finally got their 5th goal for real, with Sean Monahan firing the puck into an empty net from centre ice to take his goal streak to 3 games. The final score was 5-2, completing a terrific effort against the Panthers. Final shot count was 29-22 for the Flames.
Flames 3 Stars
- Mikael Backlund: The best player on the Flames all season was once again the best player on the Flames tonight. He had a 3 point night, with the 2 goals in 13 seconds being the turning point in the game. When the Flames win lately, Backlund is always involved. He leads the team in points with 32.
- Mark Giordano: A great game for Giordano who finished with a goal and 2 assists and also had some strong work on the PK.
- Matthew Tkachuk: 2 more assists for Matthew and a couple more penalties drawn. A typical night for him. He is good.
- Another good possession game for the Flames, who controlled 57.1% of shot-attempts at even strength, with Johnny Gaudreau leading the way at 71.4% (hockeystats.ca).
- Monahan is back to being confident and he looks like a different player from what we saw in the previous couple of weeks. Tonight he had so much poise with the puck, was taking shots, making moves. He seems to work quite well with Versteeg and Brouwer.
- Johnny came out shooting the puck early on and continued to do so whenever he had the chance. That is a good way to work towards busting out of a slump.
- I find it interesting that the coaching staff continually sends out the Gaudreau unit to start powerplays over the Backlund unit. The Backlund unit has been scoring the majority of the goals both at even strength and on the powerplay lately. They enter the zone much more effectively and relentlessly generate chances, while the Gaudreau unit is often one chance and out. I guess Gulutzan really is trying to do all he can to get the Gaudreau group going.
- The plays Matthew Tkachuk makes on a regular basis are indicative of elite hockey intelligence. The guy has 21 assists in 43 games, on pace for about a 40 assist season over the course of a full year. He just turned 19 and the Flames drafted him 6th overall. Steal.
- Freddie Hamilton returned to the line up tonight due to a couple of injuries in the forward ranks. It looked like he scored a goal but he was one of the victims to an offside review. Garnet Hathaway missed the game with an injury sustained against the Oilers, while Micheal Ferland was not quite ready to return from his minor injury against the Sharks last week.
The Flames are back in action on Thursday when they host the Predators. Nashville is one of the teams chasing Calgary for a wild card spot, so this will be a big opportunity to help create some separation. If they play again like they did tonight, you have to like their chances.