1st: PPG 16:14- Gaudreau (6) (Monahan/Tkachuk)
2nd: SHG 11:18- Rieder (2) (Ryan), 15:02- Monahan (7) (Backlund/Andersson)
3rd: 3:58- Lucic (1) (Ryan/Dube)
1st: 3:29- Reinhart (10) (Ristolainen/Olofsson)
3rd: 17:16- McCabe (2) (Olofsson), PPG 19:18- Eichel (18) (Montour/Johansson)
That game had a little bit of everything. New look Flames. Engaged Flames. Dominating Flames. Lackadaisical Flames. Sloppy Flames. Oh no, the 2019-20 Flames. Did you survive that roller coaster 4-3 victory Thursday night?
The Flames had a chance to collect their first three game winning streak of the season and did just that, barely with a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at the Saddledome. The Flames were flying tonight and looked like the exciting team we all expected them to be this season. Whether it was a few days off, self-reflection, a new coach, whatever, the Flames looked like a team we haven’t seen all year. Johnny Gaudreau (1G) looked like the Gaudreau of seasons past tonight, flying all over the ice and creating chances with the puck on his stick. Sean Monahan (1G, 1A) looked like Mony. The new look mixed lines were clicking and Geoff Ward appears to have caught lightning in a bottle with these unorthodox combinations. For almost 57 minutes this looked like a well oiled machine, but the Flames got complacent and sloppy and barely hung on thanks to two late third period goals by the Sabres.
Let’s not let those three minutes spoil what a great night it was for the Flames. Calgary hasn’t been playing this kind of hockey all season and by that I mean EVERYONE was involved. Gaudreau scored. Monahan had a two point night. Matthew Tkachuk had an assist. Tobias Rieder scored, MILAN LUCIC SCORED. Calgary had assists from six different players. Mark Giordano was a machine on defence, blocking three shots. Mikael Backlund’s forechecking efforts were amazing. They scored a PPG. They scored a SHG. They killed seven of the eight dumb penalties they took.
If you could bottle the first 55-57 minutes of this game, Calgary is going places. It was the last 3-5 minutes that was concerning. The Flames looked like they weren’t sure how to protect a three goal lead with less than five minutes to go in a game. Noah Hanifin messed up a defensive assignment leading to Buffalo’s second goal of the night with 2:44 left in the game. Then at 18:32 Hanifin took a tripping penalty that lead to Jack Eichel’s PPG that cut the lead to 4-3. David Rittich and the Flames defence was able to bail out the Calgary defenceman and the Flames would win their third straight game for the first time this season.
This had all the makings of the first complete game the Flames had played all season and like it’s been through the first 30 games of 2019-20, they didn’t put together a full 60. It’s hard to complain about stuff when Calgary looked so strong for most of the game, but they completely folded in the final minutes of this game. A team better than Buffalo will bury you if you let them back into a game and that’s just what the Flames did tonight.
With all that said you have to like what you saw for the most part tonight from Calgary. The new look lines that Geoff Ward put together seemed to spark the team, especially Johnny Gaudreau. You can paint it anyway you want, but Gaudreau going down to the third line was a demotion. Plain and simple.....but it worked. He scored his first goal in 10 games, showed some emotion, looked engaged and led the team with 5 SOG. His game was so good early on that Ward kept double shifting him, putting Gaudreau on the ice with almost anyone.
There’s still along way to go, but tonight was a positive sign for a team that needs some good to come their way.
Flame(s) Of The Game
Flames PK Units: It’s rare we hand it out to a group, but the Flames PK deserves this ten fold. They were able to kill off seven of the eight penalties the team took, including getting a SHG off the stick of Tobias Rieder. They had to kill off TWO 5 on 3’s in this contest and did so heroically. They finally cracked with under a minute left in the game, but after what they had to do tonight, can you blame them?
12/7: Calgary Flames vs LA Kings, 8 PM MT