The Sam Bennett line started things off and that proved to be a mistake. 34 seconds in Bennett took a high sticking penalty. Just a couple of seconds later, Travis Hamonic shot the puck over the glass. That lead to a minute and 58 seconds of five-on-three play in favour of the Lightning. The Flames were absolutely terrific on the kill however and the score remained tied.
The Flames had a brief opportunity going the other way as Andrei Vasilevskiy was out of position. He was forced to scramble and managed to cover the puck. That was really the only action for the Flames in the first five minutes - The Lightning were controlling play.
The Flames fortunes got a little better thanks to some misfortune for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos bowled over by Mark Giordano which left Stamkos struggling on the bench. The Flames were able to gain the zone shortly thereafter and Anton Stralman was forced into hooking Curtis Lazar on the ensuing scramble. That sent the Flames to the power play 6:02 into the period.
The power play decided to show up on the ensuing power play. Tyler Johnson paid no mind to Micheal Ferland and Mikael Backlund was able to get the puck to him with relative ease. Ferland buried it for his 20th goal of the season while Dougie Hamilton picked up the secondary assist and the Flames had themselves a one to nothing lead.
There was quite a bit of vinegar in this one and things eventually started to boil over. Matthew Tkachuk and Jake Dotchin dropped the gloves with 10:21 remaining in the first period. Each of them got a five minute major for fighting. While the fire from Tkachuk is nice, the Lightning will take a Dotchin for Tkachuk tradeoff every day - that’s not a smart draw to take.
Things were going Tampa Bay’s way over the next few minutes. They were able to keep to Calgary’s zone with relative ease and the Flames had next to nothing going the other way. Mike smith made some key saves, let up a deflection goal low blocker side that he’d probably want back. Andrej Sustr got the assist off of a shot that was really only made to keep the puck in the zone.
Play was down and then back up for the Flames, but neither team really had great chances the rest of the period. The Flames lead in shots, but the Lightning lead in puck possession. The Flames special teams were the huge keys here, stopping the five-on-three and then converting on the power play.
The Lightning had the puck in the Flames zone. Johnson went to play the puck and Backlund chucked him into the boards, taking the boarding penalty just a minute and 36 seconds into the period. Discipline apparently an issue early in periods in this one for the Flames.
The Lightning’s power play didn’t take long to capitalize. Smith did all he could, but nobody from the Flames was able to collect the puck and the Lightning had a solid four whacks at the puck out in front. Alex Killorn ultimately got the puck home with Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point getting the assists 30 seconds into the power play.
Backlund quickly made up for his sins by making Mikhail Sergachev look absolutely stupid with a toe drag and beating Vasilevskiy glove side a minute and 34 seconds later. Tkachuk got the assist. No secondary assist was required on this one - this was just a great individual effort by Backlund.
Sean Monahan went and gave the Flames the lead 5:25 into the period. Great spacing by the Flames along with lackluster defense by the Lightning allowed Gaudreau to get the puck to him down low while Vasilevskiy had no chance. Dougie Hamilton picked up his 18th assist.
The Flames came oh so close to making it four to two, but - PING off the post. The Lightning had a chance the other way, but Smith managed to stop both Nikita Kucherov and Peca to keep the Flames out in front. Beyond that, both teams were getting some attempts, but not much was getting to the net until...
MATT STAJAN COLLECTED THE PUCK FROM GARNET HATHAWAY AND BEAT VASILEVSKIY GLOVE SIDE! A MATTY FRANCHISE GOAL PUT THE FLAMES UP FOUR TO TWO! T.J. BRODIE GOT A SECONDARY ASSIST 14:27 INTO THE SECOND!
That didn’t last long. Smith flubbed a shot from Peca, the puck drifted through short side, and the Lightning drew to within a goal. Killorn and Stralman picked up the assists only 22 seconds later.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a heck of a chance going the other way on a two on one with about three minutes left. That one the other way was Giordano who timed the play absolutely perfectly, sliding over to Namestnikov and deflecting the shot out of play. Words cannot do justice on just how great the play was by Giordano and the Flames stayed out in front by a goal.
Play expired and the Flames had themselves a one goal lead. Shot attempts were about 60 percent to 40 percent in favour of the Flames during the period. It was a great effort against one of the best teams in the league and they probably should have been out in front by more, which of course set up the nerves perfectly for the third period.
The Flames third period lead lasted 12 seconds. Killorn made a spinning backhand shot and beat Smith short side. Yanni Gourde picked up the assist.
Gourde and Hathaway dropped the gloves 51 seconds later. Neither really got the better of the contest, but both went off for five minutes. Unlike the Tkachuk for Dotchin trade-off, this was a good trade off for the Flames.
The Flames managed to score with 15 minutes and 17 seconds remaining, but it didn’t count as the whistle was blown. Cory Conacher sniped one off the post and in 33 seconds later and the Lightning went up five to four. Peca and Killorn picked up the assists while Smith’s bad game continued as he had allowed five goals on 26 shots.
His night got worse. Kucherov went to the net and the Flames abandoned Steven Stamkos on the right side of the slot. Chris Kunitz picked up the assist and Smith was pulled for David Rittich with 13:38 left in the game. The final statline for Smith - six goals in 27 shots overall, five goals in 24 shots in five-on-five play. Yikes.
Rittich didn’t have a great start. Conacher had a shot from behind the net, but Rittich wasn’t in tight and the shot went in off of his back. It was an unassisted goal and completely on the goalie.
The Flames should have been winning this game save for the horrible performances by the netminders. They were leading in shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, shots, medium danger chances, high danger chances, and scoring chances against one of the best teams in the league making this one extra frustrating. To make matters worse, Ferland went off with an apparent lower body injury with about ten minutes and 24 seconds left.
Chris Kunitz went to clear the puck 13:52 into the period and immediately started towards the penalty box as he knew he was headed off for delay of game. The Flames had about one good chance from Troy Brouwer, but Vasilevskiy made an amazing save to maintain the three goal lead. To their credit the Flames were still pressing despite the very demoralizing situation, but this one was all but over.
Giordano took a holding penalty with three minutes and seven seconds left. The Flames killed it and still went and applied pressure in the Lightning zone, but again, it didn’t matter. Time expired and the Lightning rode their five unanswered goals to a victory.
There’s not much to take from this one. The Flames played well and held every advantage in the world, but took it on the chin from the top team in the East thanks to an abhorrent performance from Mike Smith. Smith entered the game with an 89.77 percent save percentage in five-on-five play when playing with a one goal lead. That number fell to 89.36 percent after tonight’s game which is sixth worst out of all starting netminders. He’s been the biggest problem with these losses as of late and one has to wonder whether or not he’s starting to wear out. As it stands, the Flames will have to regroup and hope that they can end their skid on Saturday against Chicago.