As division rivalry games go, they don’t get much better than that. The Calgary Flames won their final game of 2018 by the score of 8-5 over the San Jose Sharks. Calgary jumped out early with the newly reunited 3M Line, which scored the Flames first two goals of the night, both by Mikael Backlund and it looked like Calgary was on it’s way to a convincing win....early. The Sharks however, would have other ideas.
San Jose would battle back multiple times and get the game within one goal, but a Flames top line that played uncharacteristically sloppy early on put the nail in the San Jose coffin....multiple times. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm would combine for 12 points on the night. Yes, 12. That’s a real stat. This line was on the ice for the first two Sharks goals and looked very shaky early, but when Calgary needed them they absolutely rose to the occasion. Gaudreau would score twice and collect two assists. Sean Monahan had five helpers on the night and Elias Lindholm would finish with a goal and two assists as well. The Flames top line took this game over and showed a San Jose team that was nipping at their heels that the Flames aren’t a team to be taken lightly.
Now, with all tight division games there’s bound to be some rough stuff and this game was no exception. There was some decent hitting, but nothing got out of control until an officiating crew that struggled most of the night missed a blatant slash on Sam Bennett by Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell. Dell took umbrage after Bennett scored a goal that was wiped out by goalie interference, even though Dell was the one who initiated the contact. Dell would then chop Bennett down, right in from of the referees, yet no call was made. And as often happens, a dumb play and a blatant no call lead to some violence later in the game. Bennett would get his revenge by drilling, albeit late, Radim Simek which started the second fight in less than a minute. The previous “altercation” came after Oliver Kylington drew a crowd after taking a penalty and resident NHL doofus Evander Kane decided to interject himself into the scrum. Kane would try to fight Matthew Tkachuk, but Tkachuk would get the only quality shot it and the fisticuffs would fizzle out.
1st: 1:10- Backlund (7) (Tkachuk/Frolik), 10:55- Backlund (8) (Frolik/Tkachuk), 17:24- (PPG) Tkachuk (17) (Giordano/Monahan)
2nd: 10:47- (PPG) Tkachuk (18) (Gaudreau/Monahan), 19:33- Lindholm (18) (Gaudreau/Monahan)
3rd: 3:00- Neal (4) (Bennett/Hanifin), 5:48- Gaudreau (20) (Unassisted), 6:29- Gaudreau (21) (Unassisted)
San Jose Sharks
1st: 6:53- Radil (4) (Meier/Couture)
2nd: 3:35- (PPG) Burns (6) (Pavelski), 18:22- Donskoi (8) (Kane/Hertl)
3rd: 00:48- Donskoi (9) (Karlsson/Kane), 13:15- (PPG) Thornton (6) (Burns/Karlsson)
Where do you even begin to assess this one? When you look at the score sheet you’d think that David Rittich was terrible.....but he wasn’t. Rittich made big save after big save, stopping 28 of the 33 shots that came his way. The Flames were out shot on the night 33-27. but they pumped in 8 goals and made Aaron Dell look silly. It seems odd to say that a goalie played well after giving up 5 goals, but that’s exactly how to look at Rittich in this one.
The Flames needed a strong showing tonight as San Jose was climbing up the ladder in the West and that’s exactly what they got. Calgary didn’t back down when San Jose put on some pressure and the Flames also played the physical game and didn’t let San Jose get under their skin. Was it perfect? Nope. Was it entertaining? You betcha!
An added bonus to this contest was the re-emergence of the 3M Line. Micahel Frolik was a healthy scratch against Vancouver, but was placed back on the Flames second line and it paid immediate results. That line of Frolik, Backlund and Tkachuk combined for 8 points. You kind of get the feeling that this line won’t be broken up any time soon. And from the “this is for real right?” file.....James Neal scored a goal. Yup, that’s a real thing.
Flame Of The Game
Matthew Tkachuk (F): Tkachuk had a four point night, which was huge, but as usual Tkachuk was ruffling feathers all night long. He was the edge that Calgary needed in a game where the opposition has many of those players as well. His fingerprints were all over this win and he’ll need to keep being that player for the Flames to keep riding high in the West.
1/2: Calgary Flames @ Detroit Red Wings, 5 PM MT