Calgary 3 Minnesota 2 (OT)
Prior to the puck-drop, did anyone else just get a feeling that this would be the night Bertuzzi shook the monkey off his back?
Well, this writer sure did. Though I’ll admit that when Calgary’s first tally went to Daymond Langkow, I did begin to think the burly forward might remain snake-bit for just a while longer. But courtesy of an overtime goal from Todd Bertuzzi and a strong performance from Miikka Kiprusoff and the Flames’ defense, Calgary found a way to extend Minnesota’s losing streak to six–and more crucially, to push ahead of Vancouver (at least momentarily) in the race for the Northwest Division.
On The Line
These back-to-back games are funny; lose them, and the excuses start flowing. Win, and the accolades likewise pour in, deserved or not. But Calgary is winless in the second of back-to-backs this season, and the fact is that the best teams find ways to overcome their tired legs and find wins when they maybe aren’t supposed to.
A couple of Giordano-penalties notwithstanding, not a bad period for the visitors. It was a performance that has to be described as “workmanlike”–though that’s not to say that it was a boring period at all–both teams were skating and playing smart, and after one period the teams were even-steven, both in goals and shots. It was a period of hockey that had no goals, but did have everything else: a big hit, a fight, big saves and fast, smart hockey from both teams. When you’re the visitors in a loud building, ending the first in a scoreless tie has to be considered a success.
In the second period, the Flames really started taking it to Minnesota, who seemed a little fragile after losing five straight. Soon after that, Andre Roy gave the board a chance to test the “do fights change games” question empirically. Roy fought Boogaard to a draw–pretty good result against one of the league’s heavyweights. The result? Well, maybe not too much, actually. The teams would trade lucky goals before Craig Conroy put the Flames ahead 2-1 on a nice feed from Michael Cammalleri. The Wild didn’t generate much for the rest of the period, until Cory Sarich’s magic disappearing hockey-stick caused an offensive flurry for the Wild that seemed to last until Marc-Andre Bergeron’s late slashing penalty put the Flames back in the driver’s seat going into the intermission.
The third period was the Kipper show. A scrambly start led to a flurry of Minnesota chances on the Flames’ goal, in large part courtesy of a Rene Bourque giveaway at the blueline. Kiprusoff was equal to the task, and held the Flames in it while Mike Keenan sent out a search party to find his team’s skating legs. However, any hockey fan knows that Kitty can only bar the door for so long before something slips by–and Marian Gaborik would finally tie the game at 2 with under five minutes to go. There were chances both ways after that, but nothing doing–both goalies were strong.
This is one where one could almost sense that Calgary didn’t want to go to the shootout. They pressed hard, fought for loose pucks, and showed considerable jam for a team that had looked very tired just a period before. In the end, Bertuzzi would end the game on a diving pass from Daymond Langkow that sprung the burly forward on a partial break. This time, Bertuzzi made no mistake, burying the shot over the shoulder of Backstrom. All things considered, I’d guess Bertuzzi would rather have the OT winner than the game-opener–but I’m sure he’s just glad to be rid of the monkey.
- Todd Bertuzzi: I still don’t like the guy; but even I have to admit that he had a whale of a game, notching the game winner after he could have scored about three in regulation.
- Marian Gaborik: Without Gaborik’s goal and assist in this game, this one is over before the Zamboni comes out for the second intermission.
- Miikka Kiprusoff: He’s been given a rough ride around here, but it’s time to give the Finn his due; Kiprusoff was excellent in this game, making 25 saves, a few of which were of the eye-popping variety.
This could have gone to any number of Kiprusoff saves, including a number in the third, which helped preserve Calgary’s one-goal lead for 15-minutes of lead-footed hockey by the visitors. However, for style alone, I’m giving this honour to Kipper’s cricket-style swing at a lobbing puck in the first period, directing the disc over the net and out of harm’s way.
In this game, Rene Bourque got a visit from the Boogeyman: Derek Boogaard absolutely annihilated Bourque in the corner early in the first, setting the tone for a physical game. Bourque isn’t in Boogaard’s weight-class, but he showed that he was none the worse for wear by taking on Nick Schultz in a feisty scrap not too long afterward.
I hate to pin this on any player in a game like this–but you have to point the finger at Dion Phaneuf going head-hunting deep into the Minnesota zone, only to miss Brent Burns with a flying elbow while two Minnesota forwards take the puck in on a clear breakaway as the rest of the Flames’ lineup is changing. Fortunately for Mr. Top Hat, Craig Weller put himself offside–but Phaneuf has to be a little more aware.
I wanted to give this to Jarome Iginla for his hair-raising dangle in traffic to keep the power-play rush alive at Minnesota’s blue-line in the second. However, you have to give the nod to Marian Gaborik. Gaborik had to fight through very effective checking from Robyn Regehr all night, and still managed a goal and an assist at a time when the state of hockey is decidedly short on offense.
Odds and Ends
Adam Pardy looks pretty good out there, a first-period fumble notwithstanding–and every time I see him it strikes me what a very big man he is. NHL.com lists him as 6’2, 206 lbs–but he sure looks bigger to me. If he can learn to use that frame to clear the front of the net and start punishing the Ales Hemskys of the league a la Robyn Regehr, he’ll be a fixture on the Flames’ defence corps for many seasons… The Roy/Boogaard fight was an interesting one: Ray Ferraro was desperate to give Boogaard the decision, but it didn’t look (to me) like the Boogeyman was able to land his big haymaker–I think Roy just lost his balance. Roy only landed rabbit-punches, but give him credit for taking on the big man in the first place…. Calgary’s penalty-kill continues to look good, but one has to wonder if they’ve maybe been watching Minnesota, who were equally proficient while a man short. Minnesota seems to be very good at getting stick in lanes and disrupting teams’ entry into the zone. If they can start scoring, they’ll be a dangerous team again… Even though he broke through and got the goal and the assist, I thought Robyn Regehr had a very strong game in shutting down Marian Gaborik, especially matching his speed in the neutral zone. Good scorers make something out of nothing: Regehr, when he’s on his game, has the ability to make nothing out of something. I hope Adam Pardy is watching and learning…. As the second period began, the TSN crew helpfully pointed out that Bertuzzi had played 345 minutes without a goal: ouch. Well, all is forgotten now, provided he can use that momentum to get rolling again… After the last game the return of Jarome Iginla was much heralded. Tonight? No goals, no assists, one shot and -1. I’m not one to overreact after just one game, but given Iginla’s usual dominance over the Wild, it was definitely a curious no-show. However, let’s wait until Friday’s tilt before sending out the search-party.
The Flames head home to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. Game time is 7 P.M., and it will be on Sportsnet and the Fan960.
Lines (To Start):
Cammalleri – Lombardi – Iginla
Bertuzzi – Langkow – Lundmark
Bourque – Conroy – Moss
Roy – Boyd – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Giordano
Regehr – Aucoin
Sarich – Pardy