Despite playing only 14:51, Juuse Saros could arguably be the first star of the game. Predators starter Pekka Rinne left the game shortly after giving up the third goal of the game to Sam Bennett, after being run over by Kevin Fiala. On the ensuing faceoff, Saros robbed Elias Lindholm on the far side of the Predators’ net. That gave the visiting team a spark, and Zac Rinaldo scored the eventual game-winning goal over Mike Smith’s blocker minutes later, on a 2-on-1. Saros stopped 9 shots, none of which were routine.
Every Predators’ goal had a Flames response. Ryan Johansen opened the scoring just 51 seconds into the game, left wide open in front of the net after TJ Brodie dropped his stick. Johnny Gaudreau fed Elias Lindholm for his team leading 5th goal of the season, on just the Flames second shot of the game with just over a minute left in the first period.
Brodie got lost again for the Predators’ second goal, paired with Juuso Valimaki and again leaving Craig Smith wide open in front of Mike Smith for an easy goal. Matthew Tkachuk and Kevin Fiala traded powerplay goals before the period ended.
After Sam Bennett and Derek Ryan undressed Pekka Rinne, and forced him to leave the game, Zac Rinaldo ripped a shot past Smith with 13 minutes left. While no goal on Smith was soft, it would’ve been nice to see him stop a good chance, moments after the Flames had battled back into the game.
Bill Peters’ line shuffling worked again, as the Bennett-Ryan-Neal line was the Flames’ best in the third, after Mark Jankowski was put on the fourth line.
1st Period: Lindholm (5) (Gaudreau, Giordano)
2nd Period: Tkachuk (3) (Lindholm, Giordano)
3rd Period: Bennett (2) (Ryan, Stone)
1st Period: Johansen (2) (Forsberg, Ellis)
2nd Period: Smith (3) (Turris, Fiala), Fiala (1) (Ellis, Turris)
3rd Period: Rinaldo (1) (Weber), Forsberg (5) (Unassisted) EN
While the Flames lost this game, they certainly didn’t get beat. The Predators are one of, if not the best, team in the Western Conference, and the Flames have looked every part their equals in two matches this year. Twice they’ve scored 3 goals on the reigning Vezina winner, and their speed and control in the offensive zone look elite. While the powerplay remains solid, quality over quantity is a very true statement, and a chance with under 5 minutes to play needs to be converted. Mike Smith has been Jekyll and Hyde from game to game this year, and Bill Peters’ may want to start to play David Rittich more often.
Flame Of The Game
Sam Bennett (LW). Bennett was everywhere tonight, recording 4 hits, 3 blocks, and a goal in 15:29 of ice time. Bill Peters promoted Derek Ryan to play between Bennett and James Neal, and it payed immediate dividends on Bennett’s beautiful tying goal. If Bennett can maintain this level of play throughout the year, he’ll be an essential all-around piece to the Flames future. His play has really started to remind everyone of that of Micheal Ferland, while adding Bennett’s elite skill. The Hockey Gods seem to still have a small amount of hate for Bennett, who’s redirection beat Saros, but missed the net, which would have tied this game at 4.
10/21: Calgary Flames @ New York Rangers, 5 PM MT