If that’s what nine days off looks like there’s no need to see that again. The Flames came back from their mandatory time off and looked slow, sluggish and disjointed and lost to the Washington Capitals 4-3 Friday night.
The Flames looked like a team that was going to take it to Washington in their first few shifts, but the Caps played a physical/borderline dirty game and Calgary had some answers, but not enough. The Flames didn’t play physical enough and their lack of toughness tonight showed at the end of the game when Johnny Gaudreau was leveled as time expired. Sure the Flames (Rasmus Andersson and Matthew Tkachuk) repsonded, but they allowed Washington to take liberties with them all night long and it’s no surprise that the defending Stanley Cup Champions took one last shot. Why not? The Flames weren’t doing anything to counteract it.
Mike Smith, for some reason, got the start in net tonight and his “puck handling” is what got the Flames in trouble early and often as his first gaffe would lead to a Washington goal. Smith would turn the puck over repeatedly tonight and when it wasn’t costing the Flames, the Calgary goalkeeper would have to make sprawling saves to cover up his own mistakes. Smith stopped 36 of the 40 shots that came his way, but let’s be real: his recent run of success has more to do with the team in front of him than it does his play.
Calgary would tie the game on a beautiful goal by Mikael Backlund that is and will probably be our highlight of the week. Backlund knocked a clearing attempt down just inside the blue line and he would skate in going forehand to backhand and got Brayden Holtby to bite and he would put the puck in the net with one hand and the game was tied at 1-1.
From there on out each team would trade goals until Johnny Gaudreau would fire a slapshot at the net that would Elias Lindholm would tip home and the Flames would tie the game 3-3. Calgary looked like they were going to secure at least a point and get to overtime, but the Caps would make the Flames pay. Sloppy play by Calgary would lead to a rush by Evgeny Kuznetsov and he would catch Rasmus Andersson in no man’s land and any decison the Flames rookie made was going to end in a goal. Kuznetsov would fire a perfectly placed shot blocker side and that was the game. Caps 4, Flames 3.
1st: 17:37- Backlund (13) (unassisted)
2nd: 2:17- Hathaway (6) (Ryaan/Brodie)
3rd: 12:01- Lindholm (22) (Gaudreau/Brodie)
1st: 3:00- Dowd (5) (Carlson/Kempny), 19:24- Jaskin (2) (Eller/Orpik)
2nd: 00:54- Wilson (14) (Vrana/Kuznetsov)
3rd: 19:03- (PPG) Kuznetsov (10) (Oshie/Backstrom)
The Flames lacked toughness, killer instinct and the overall intelligent play we’ve seen from them all season long. They were sloppy with the puck. They were extremely indecisive when it came time to shoot. And their passes were off the mark more often than not.
They were snake bitten too as Mark Jankowski and James Neal each hit a post and Neal was robbed when he couldn’t pull the trigger on a half open net. But to be fair Mike Smith had the same luck in his end of the ice as well. Washington hit two posts and it would be kind in saying that Mike Smith had no clue where those pucks were.
The final thing to touch upon was the officiating tonight. It was brutal. For a long time nothing was being called, including a text book example of interference on Matthew Tkachuk that somehow went uncalled directly in front on a referee. Then out of nowhere the Capitals went on three straight power plays, which is the epitome of how the NHL officials have been calling games this season. All in all, just not enough good from the team from Calgary, despite the suspect calls/no calls by the guys in stripes.
Flame Of The Game
T.J. Brodie (D): Brodie wasn’t a standout, in his defence no one was, but he did collect two points on the night. He had helpers on Garnet Hathaway and Elias Lindholm’s goals, pushing his points total to 27 on the season.
2/3: Calgary Flames @ Carolina Hurricanes 12 PM MT