Chad Johnson had a big game and although the Calgary Flames blew a 2-0 lead, they managed to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout.
There were some line up changes heading into the game. Brett Kulak, Garnet Hathaway and Chad Johnson drew in for Jyrki Jokipakka, Lance Bouma and Brian Elliott tonight, against a very good Pittsburgh Penguins team, in a very important game.
The first period had moments, but overall, nothing of consequence occurred. There were penalties both ways, a couple of chances, but nothing that changed the outcome of the game. The period ended with the score locked at zero. Shots were tied at 7-7.
Something that has not occurred all season this far transpired: A Johnny Gaudreau penalty. #13 was whistled for high-sticking, but fortunately, the Flames killed the penalty off.
Calgary played a pretty tight game with Pittsburgh for awhile, not generating much in terms of opportunities to score, but not giving up a lot of quality chances against either. Action finally started to kick up late in the period. Chad Johnson robbed Sidney Crosby with a kick-save and seconds later, Sean Monahan was stopped by Matt Murray on a breakaway.
The Flames would break through before the period ended. Micheal Ferland stole the puck from Sidney Crosby at the blueline and was gone. Nobody caught him and he fired one glove side past Murray to make it 1-0 Flames.
Then, a gorgeous passing play on a 3-on-2 rush put the Flames up by 2. Backlund to Tkachuk to Frolik to the mesh. 2-0 Flames.
The Flames suppressed the Penguins and Johnson made some big saves and when the team finally had their chances, they broke through. 2-0 Flames after two, shots on goal were 21-14 for Pittsburgh.
Early in the third period it looked like Sidney Crosby had the Penguins on the scoreboard. The goal horn sounded, Crosby celebrated, but it was waived off as the puck actually hit the intersection of the post and the crossbar and stayed out. The Flames dodged a bullet there, but they would not continue to be so lucky. Chris Kunitz jammed one past Johnson for a goal that Johnson would probably have liked to have had, to put the Pens within one. The Flames had a couple high quality scoring chances but Matt Murray shut the door on them, which opened the door for the Penguins to tie the game. With 5 minutes left, the Flames failed to clear the puck multiple times on a shift and after their last opportunity, who else but Dennis Wideman would turn it over, leading to Jake Guentzel tying it for the Penguins. Justin Schultz almost scored in the final minute of play too, but the puck slid through the crease.
The 2-0 lead evaporated and the Flames had to go to OT to look for a victory.
A good effort by Sam Bennett lead to a Pittsburgh penalty after Trevor Daley held him for a good 8 seconds and the Flames would come out firing on the powerplay. First, Sean Monahan scored what looked like the overtime winner, but the goal was called back because Murray had knocked off his goal mask a second before Monahan scored. The Flames continued to press, with Gaudreau hitting the post and the Flames pouring on the pressure, but they could not score.
It was off to a shootout, with the shots in OT 7-0 for Calgary.
Kris Versteeg scored a beauty after Phil Kessel was stopped by Johnson. Johnson proceeded to stop Crosby on the following chance and then Monahan was stopped by Murray, so Kris Letang needed to score to keep the shootout going. He hit the post. Flames win a big one in Pittsburgh.
Flames 3 Stars
- Chad Johnson: Johnson had been having a rough run coming into tonight’s game, but this win was thanks to him. He stopped 31 of 33 shots against and made a couple huge saves in the shootout. Goaltending can win you games against elite teams and Johnson did that for the Flames tonight.
- Micheal Ferland: Huge goal scored by Ferland in the second to get the Flames on the board. The fact he did it by stripping Crosby of the puck to go in on a breakaway was solid for style points too. He has been on a roll.
- Sean Monahan: Did not score any goals that counted, but was one of the better forwards in the game for the Flames. Huge on the overtime powerplay too, winning 3 big faceoffs in a row.
- Brutal numbers at even-strength for the Flames tonight. T.J. Brodie has the best CF% out of all Flames, with just 46.2% (hockeystats.ca). Engelland and Kulak got destroyed at 28.8% each. But the team survived tonight thanks to goaltending.
- The Flames need a top-4 defender so bad. Giordano, Hamilton and Brodie are one of the best top 3s in the league and then.... It is not good.
- Kris Versteeg has been such a huge pickup. Beautiful shootout goal for the winner, plus he’s looked solid in general lately.
- A lot of the guys that have been having big slumps this season have looked quite good the last few games (Gaudreau, Monahan, Brodie, Ferland, even Bennett). Hopefully they can keep pushing things forward because the Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik line cannot do all the heavy lifting to make a playoff push.
- Big that the Flames managed to find a win in this game, because they are idle for the next few days with their league mandated break finally here. St. Louis and Los Angeles have games in hand on the Flames, so at least the Flames are going to make them have to win games to get into playoff spots.
The league mandated break. The Flames get 5 days off and then their next game will be Monday at home against the Arizona Coyotes. They are back in a playoff spot now, but with the Blues and Kings having games in hand, where will they be when the break is over? It is going to be a grind to the end.