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Mike Smith Rusty, Flames Power Play Stalls Out in 5-2 Loss to Islanders

Calgary Flames v New York Rangers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

First Period

Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Micheal Ferland started things off for the Flames while Thomas Hickey, Ryan Pulock, Anders Lee, John Tavares and Josh Bailey started off for the Islanders. The Islanders won the faceoff and got into the zone early and tested Mike Smith almost immediately. Smith made the quick save from an odd angle and kept the Islanders off of the scoreboard. The Flames went back the other way off of a Pulock turnover, but Brandon Davidson cut off the passing lane and Matthrew Tkachuk held onto it too long and couldn’t convert on Christopher Gibson.

The Islanders didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard with the goals coming from their defense. Casey Cizikas won a faceoff draw and Nick Leddy put up a laser that beat Smith. That goal put the Islanders up by a goal just two minutes and 14 seconds into the game.

The Islanders would take a two to nothing lead only 18 seconds later. The same line and pair was out for the Islanders when Ross Johnston pushed the puck back to the blue line to Johnny Boychuk who has a quite the dangerous slapshot. The shot bounced off Troy Brouwer’s stick which wound up foiling Smith.

The Flames didn’t take too long to get one back. Gaudreau had the puck off of a Monahan pass and deked Leddy and took a shot from Gibson’s blocker side. Gibson was caught looking and Gaudreau beat him in a goal that no goalie should let in. Time of the goal - 7:23.

The Islanders clearly weren’t up for allowing the Flames back into this one, however, or at least not this early in the game. Tavares got the puck back to Boychuk who had his shot deflected by Jordan Eberle. Smith stopped with relative ease, but he was quite sloppy with his rebound control. Eberle was there to clean up his own mess as the Islanders got their two goal lead back with nine minutes and 35 seconds remaining in the period.

The game had been mostly offense and very little defense, but one beautiful defensive play that probably went unnoticed by many came with 6:30 in the period. Mikael Backlund got the puck over to Michael Frolik. Davidson slid over and just got his stick on it enough to force Frolik to make an adjustment and force the play offside.

The Islanders came into the game with the seventh best penalty differential in the league, but the Flames wound up being the first to get a man advantage. Brock Nelson didn’t keep his feet moving and was forced into hooking Gaudreau 14:23 into the period. The Flames 21st ranked power play went to work against the Islanders 30th ranked penalty kill, but they couldn’t capitalize as Gibson stopped three Calgary shots.

There was plenty attempts back and forth, but nothing going for the rest of the period. The Flames lead after one in scoring chances and shot attempts, but Smith was not up to par. The Islanders had the better of play after scoring adjustments and special teams were taken out - that’s a recipe for success for the puck luck running Islanders and a measure of disaster for a Flames team that’s predicated on puck control.

Second Period

The Islanders took 50 seconds to score. Leddy passed the puck over to Boychuk on the right side of the blueline. Boychuk was completely uncovered and would have had enough time to parallel park a car. He fired off a slapshot which Smith stopped, but again the rebound control wasn’t there as Anders Lee buried it and put the Islanders up four to one.

Smith did make a tremendous save about five minutes into the period with Eberle and Mathew Barzal breaking in on him. Eberle passed over to Barzal across the slot on a two-on-one, but Smith stacked the pads to deny the Islanders rookie sensation. While one had to wonder whether that was too little, too late, it would have certainly been too late had the shot went in.

The Flames went back to the man advantage at the 6:56 mark of the period. Ross Johnston went in a little too roughly for the officials liking on Garnet Hathaway. Johnston and Hathaway threw down with Johnston getting the better of the contest as each got five for fighting.

Once again the Flames couldn’t capitalize. Unlike the previous opportunity, the Flames chances in this one were relatively innocuous. Hamilton was called for a questionable hand pass which ruined some decent momentum they had going. Sam Bennett attempted to pass the puck across the slot to Michael Stone, but Adam Pelech made a nice play to interrupt it and Gibson was able to cover.

The Flames went back to the power play again with 7:19 left in the period. Brouwer was tripped up by Davidson and went to work. Monahan nearly got the Flames back into it with a goal about 20 seconds in, but was stopped by the toes of Gibson. Cizikas has a breakaway going the other way, but he got in way too close to Smith and essentially ruined his own chance. Once again, the Flames failed to capitalize.

Nothing was going the rest of the way as the Islanders took a three goal lead into the third period. The Flames again had the better of play before score adjustments, but score adjustments were ridiculous. The Islanders had nearly 65 percent of the scoring chances after said adjustments and it seemed as though the Flames were going through the motions at time.

Third Period

The Flames had some excellent play in the Islanders zone going as they held control for nearly two minutes. Hathaway had a beautiful opportunity out in front of the net, but was defeated by Gibson who made a stellar play to close the five hole and smother it. The Islanders were able to clear the puck off of the ensuing faceoff.

The Flames were testing Gibson early and often as the Islanders were starting to go into a bit of a defensive shell, but Gibson proved to be up for the challenge as he made save after save. The Flames had seven shots in the first seven minutes, but couldn’t defeat the rookie netminder. That changed with 12:36 left when a Giordano shot drifted through Gibson as Gibson wound up punching it into his own net with his glove bringing the Flames to within two.

The Flames continued their dominant run of play through the first half of the period. After ten minutes, shots were 11-0 in favour of the Flames. That stopped when Barzal drew a penalty on Monahan as he got his stick in on Barzal. Barzal kept skating and the Islanders went to their first power play 10:58 into the period.

That power play would be truncated as Nelson took his second penalty of the game after tripping Brouwer. The two teams were off to play 34 seconds of four on four play. Most of the play was spent in the Islanders end with the two teams wrestling for the puck along the boards.

The Flames truncated power play once again proved ineffective. They had two shots on net, but Gibson stopped them both. The Flames had 47 shots on net, but only two goals to speak of.

Flames fans were forced to hold their breath as Hamilton checked Barzal who wound up falling into the knees of Tkachuk. Play was blown dead and the two teams went to a television timeout with 5:05 left. Tkachuk went back to the dressing room.

The Flames had a beautiful opportunity out of the break as Bennett made Pelech look foolish off of a deke, but once again Gibson was there to make another great save. Brouwer was forced into the faceoff dot of the ensuing draw and that lead to an Islanders faceoff victory and the opportunity to kill off 30 seconds or so. Islanders fans often question their player utilization, but Brouwer being out out in the last five minutes the Flames down by two goals is something worse than questionable even with Tkachuk in the locker room.

The Flames had Smith pulled and continued to go to work. The Islanders continued to attempt to do their best in front of Gibson who was north of the 50 save mark. The Flames took a timeout with 50.8 seconds left in the game in an attempt to rest some players and try and draw closer. Tavares won the draw and the Flames knocked the puck down with a high stick. It wasn’t much, but it killed four seconds.

The Islanders managed to get the puck into the Flames zone with Smith still pulled. Lee snapped it into the empty net to ice the game at five to two with 10.2 remaining. For the Islanders, they picked up their first victory in nine games. For the Flames, their three game point streak came to an end.

Ending Points

The Flames fell ahead early, but the Islanders defensive shell allowed the Flames to push back tremendously in the third period. Ultimately it wasn’t meant to be. Smith looked shaky to start and Gibson’s magical run continued through his third NHL game of the season. The Flames certainly outplayed the Islanders, but goaltending proved to be the difference in this one in the opposite fashion that fans of either team probably would have expected. Smith finished with 22 saves in 26 shots for an .846 save percentage.

The Flames really could have used these points. Six of their next eight games come against teams that are currently in a playoff spot, many of whom are still jockeying for position. They’ll have to regroup and try again against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Islanders won’t complain about the Flames misfortunes - their chance at two lottery picks just went up considerably. The loss here drops the Flames chances by over 11 percent as the odds makers had this one going in the Flames direction. They’re not out a playoff spot yet - their odds at making the playoffs went up to 2.5 percent, but it would take a crazy run and some misfortune by the teams that are currently in front of him.

Stars of the Game

First Star - Christopher Gibson - 50 saves, 52 shots against, .962 save percentage
Second Star - Johnny Boychuk - 1 goal, 2 primary assists, 51.87% CF, +14.38% CF Rel
Third Star - Johnny Gaudreau - 1 goal, 1 assist, 54.44% CF, -3.23% CF Rel, 1 penalty drawn