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Mikael Backlund scores 100th Goal, David Rittich gets first Win in Flames 3-2 victory over Avalanche

NHL: Calgary Flames at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

First Period

The game started off with Jonathan Bernier playing as small as he could in the first minute. He was back further than he should have been and Micheal Ferland had an uncontested shot in slot with plenty of directions to choose from. He managed to beat Bernier, but the puck rang off of the crossbar and out of play.

For some reason the Calgary Flames broadcast wasn’t coming in. The Colorado Avalanche have perhaps one of the most nefariously bad broadcasts in the N.H.L. on Altitude sports. In the first five minutes of the game, they referred to David Rittich as “Mike” and replaced the Vegas Golden Knights logo with the NHL one.

Play was back and forth with the Flames slightly outperforming the Avalanche through the first ten minutes of the period. The Avalanche set up shop in their own zone, but Sven Andreghetto slashed Dougie Hamilton and the Flames went to the power play 9:54 into the period. Unfortunately, their power play was powerless as they failed to register a shot on goal.

The period remained quite quiet with only six shots a piece about fifteen minutes in. The Flames received another power play 16:07 into the period when Gabriel Landeskog crosschecked Matthew Tkachuk. The Flames spent some extended time with the empty net as the Avalanche failed to gain possession, but failed to capitalize.

The Flames had their second best chance of the night with Johnny Gaudreau feeding the puck to Ferland for a one-timer, but Ferland missed once again. It didn’t take long for them to make that irrelevant however. The second power play unit came out and Tkachuk fed the puck to Dougie Hamilton on the left side. There wasn’t an Avalanche defender in site as he fired it from just above the inside of the dot and beat Bernier to give the Flames a one to nothing lead.

There wasn’t a ton of action in the period, but the Flames carried play. They had over 70 percent of the unblocked shot attempts after score adjustments at the end of the period. By all accounts it’s exactly what fans wanted to see after the disaster against the Dallas Stars during the third period of yesterday’s game.

Second Period

The Avalanche got their first power play early in the period as Jaromir Jagr went off for hooking Colin Wilson 2:03 into the period. It was a pretty bad penalty kill for the Flames. Fortunately Rittich was able to shut down the Avalanche onslaught, but allowing four shots in two minutes is less than ideal.

The Avalanche were receipients of another power play 6:17 into the period when Hamilton hooked Nathan MacKinnon. Once again, it was an awful penalty kill for the Flames and Rittich was able to bail them out. They had three shots on goal, but Rittich looked steady, even as he had to slide across the crease to make a save off the helmet.

Gaudreau made another phenomenal pass to Sean Monahan who managed to beat Bernier, but he too hit the crossbar. MacKinnon interfered with Gaudreau on the play however and the Flames received their third power play of the night 9:52 into the period. They had nothing going on the power play and were actually outshot one to nil.

Matt Bartkowski shot the puck over the boards for some reason 13:31 into the period which gave the Avalanche their third power play of the evening. The Flames once again looked like awful on the power play and this time Mikko Rantanen made them pay a minute and one second later. Glen Gulutzan’s decision to ice Troy Brouwer and Travis Hamonic on the power play is less curious than it is straight up stupid.

The goal seemed to ignite the Flames however. Monahan created a nice turnover and got it to Ferland who was in close on Bernier’s glove hand and he put it home with just 51 seconds left. They would have taken the one goal lead, but Mikael Backlund had other ideas as he picked up a Hamonic rebound right at the left side dot and scored the 100th goal of his N.H.L. career.

Third Period

Calgary once again got a quick power play opportunity as MacKinnon went off for hooking Michael Stone just 1:33 into the period. They didn’t score, but they looked great on the man advantage with four shots on goal. Tkachuk and Jagr in particular looked terrific getting a couple of high danger chances.

The Flames were doing a pretty good job throttling the play for about the first seven minutes of play, but then they just kind of stopped. Sure, the shifts were short, but they had next to no possession as the Avalanche got off attempt after attempt and the Flames were still making it look dicey. Jagr managed to get possession of the puck and get it up to Mark Jankowski who had a decent look at Bernier, but Bernier made the glove save to stop play. More importantly, the Flames got to the post-ten minute television time out with the puck in the Avalanche zone giving them a chance at some offensive zone possession.

Play was pretty even up until the 13:45 mark when Carl Soderberg got a breakaway with an absurd amount of speed. Fortunately for the Flames Rittich made a magnificent play sliding across the crease to make the save. His lateral movement had been stellar all game.

The Flames were in quite the shell and barely able to get any possession. Eventually it caught up to them as Mark Barberio fed Nikita Zadorov who fired a laser past Rittich to cut the lead to one with 2:54 left in the game. From there it was time for the antacids and an empty net for Avalanche, but they failed to even the score as the Flames won three to two.

Conclusion

Starting with the positives, the Flames played an excellent game at five on five with 60 percent of the shots on net after score adjustments. The power play also played quite well with one goal on four attempts with one where they probably should have had another one. Rittich was phenomenal in his first career start, stopping 16 of 17 shots at even strength and one of nine on the penalty kill.

As for the negatives, they need to clean up the penalty kill. Nine shots against in three penalty kills is going to lead to goals on most nights. They also went into the shell way to hard at the end. They have to play their game to the end and they failed to do so in this one as they ultimately should have won by more.

FIRST STAR - David Rittich (Win, 16/17 saves at even strength, 1st career win)
SECOND STAR - Mikael Backlund (1G, 1A, career goal number 100)
THIRD STAR - Dougie Hamilton (1G, lead team in 5v5 score/zone adjusted CFRel%)