There was a lot of buzz surrounding the goaltenders in tonight's matchup and they did not disappoint. The first matchup between the two Pacific Division opponents was also a milestone game for forward Matthew Tkachuk, who was playing in his 100th NHL game. Tkachuk becomes only the second player in Flames history to play in 100 games before turning 20, the other being Dan Quinn back in 1985.
The first began uneventful with the teams trading hits and shots. Thanks to an interference call against Brendan Perlini, the Flames had an early chance on the powerplay just 4:15 into the period. The Flames managed four shots on net during the PP, but nothing came of any of the opportunities. The Coyotes Clayton Keller came up big twice with a takeaway and blocking a shot from T.J. Brodie.
The Coyotes best chance of the period came late as Dougie Hamilton was sent off for tripping leaving them on the powerplay for the last 1:13 of the period. Keller again tried to make an impact this time on offense with a threading pass to Derek Stepan, but it was no match for Mike Smith as he came up big with a deflection off the glove.
Both Smith and Scott Wedgewood were in charge of their nets, and the first period ended scoreless. While the Flames seemed to set up better opportunities, Arizona out shot them 16-14. Penalty minutes were two a-piece.
The Flames came out of the locker room to begin the second period with a lot more energy and just 2:48 in Mark Jankowski put a juicy rebound from Wedgewood into the back of the net with a beautiful between the legs move to open the scoring and put the Flames up 1-0. Jaromir Jagr netted his 6th assist of the year on the goal with a beautiful pass to set it all up.The rest of the period would be highlighted again by the goalies. Scott Wedgewood made a big save on a Matthew Tkachuk shot, and while the Flames generated many chances and seemed to take over momentum for part of the middle part of the period, they could not convert anything besides the Jankowski goal. On the other side of the ice, the Coyotes generated a great chance but Mike Smith robbed Oliver Ekman-Larsson with a diving stop to keep the score 1-0.
14:53 into the period, Troy Brower got sent to the penalty box for cross checking Brad Richardson in what was easily an avoidable penalty. The Coyotes managed just one shot on goal during their powerplay and towards the end of it the Flames managed few good chances, despite all their efforts being blocked. The period ends with shots in favor of Calgary 27-21 and where it matters most, a score of 1-0.
The Flames looked caught by surprise in the first shift of the third period as the Coyotes came out firing. The first few minutes were fast and furious, including a pair of hits by Brett Kulak and Matthew Tkachuk. Johnny Gaudreau was visibly frustrated after a great chance to add an insurance goal. Ferland, Monahan, and Gaudreau all set up great chances, but Wedgewood denied every single opportunity. It seemed the defensive struggle would continue, but the next few minutes would change that.
It wasn't until Luke Schenn misplayed a puck deep in the zone that Matthew Tkachuk was able to get the turnover and feed a wide open Mikael Backlund in front of the net alone to tally his seventh of the year at 10:19 of the third to add some insurance. Less than two minutes later off the faceoff Mark Jankowski would make a beautiful forehand to backhand move to get his second goal of the game, and suddenly with the game at 3-0, it seemed more of what we were expecting from the Flames. Finally it seemed that the Coyotes had run out of gas and the Flames earn a shutout victory thanks to a great effort from Mike Smith in goal.
Mark Jankowski once again proves he belongs playing in the NHL with his fourth and fifth goals of the year. Special teams did not play a role in this game, but the Flames have now killed off 17 of their last 18 penalties. Mike Smith earned his second shutout as a Flame, and seemed to stop any chances from Arizona with relative ease. Credit must be given to Scott Wedgewood who kept the Coyotes in the game for most of the night with some great play in net, but in the end the Flames were able to finally get through him especially thanks to a big game from the 3rd line. I do think the Flames could do a better job on faceoffs, losing 54% of them tonight.
Flame of the Game
There are two people that I think are deserving of this award tonight, but I am going to give it to #41 Mike Smith. There was a lot of talk before the game about how Smith would do playing against his former team for the first time in the regular season, and his answer was a 28 save shutout. It was another solid outing from Smith, and hopefully we are seeing a goaltender that will become a consistent starter, something Calgary has lacked for the past couple of years.
The Battle of Alberta comes to the Saddledome Saturday Night as the Oilers come to town!