Flames fans are used to this story. The team they cheer for never make life easy on them. Even when the Flames lead for the division seemed absolutely insurmountable, some winning streaks by teams below, and some streaky play from the Flames, has nearly cut the lead in half.
But it doesn’t end there for us fans. Things are going to get even harder. Injuries have started to creep into the Flames lineup and are starting to take down some of the secondary stars that have buoyed the team through many parts of this season. Daymond Langkow is gone with a sprained wrist, Rene Bourque is gone for likely the rest of the regular season with a high ankle sprain, and it’s not going to stop there.
So with most of the remaining games this season on the road, the Flames are in for gut check time. But these types of challenges are what turns teams into playoff performers. The Flames continued their road battle in Edmonton tonight on Hockey Day in Canada. And the teams saved the best for last.
On The Line
With the Vancouver Canucks suddenly nipping at the Flames heels, Calgary needed the win to keep some distance between them and the competition. For the Oilers, they’re desperately fighting for their playoff lives, slipping in and out as the days change.
Expectantly, the Oilers started the game strongly putting a lot of pressure on the Flames; with the only Flames line that was looking dangerous was the trio of Mike Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy. Calgary was guilty of some sloppy play in their own zone, and having a great deal of difficulty with puck control. It was moments after the Flames finished killing off a penalty to Adrian Aucoin, when Erik Cole picked up a loose puck at the top of the circle and snapped a shot past Kiprusoff to give the home team a 1-0 lead the held heading into the first intermission.
In the second, things started out much better for Calgary. Inside of the first five minutes Cory Sarich jumped up in the play, bouncing the puck off of the boards and around an Oiler forechecker, picked the puck back up, faked a shot and fed a beauty of a pass right to the waiting stick of Flames Captain Iginla for his twenty second goal of the season. Calgary would mount pressure, but most of their chances seemed to be from the outside, or with pucks bouncing towards the net. Call it fairly even with a slight edge to the Flames.
The third started much like the first period. A decent chance at one end for the Flames followed up by a decent chance for the Oilers, and just 1:46 into the third Ales Hemsky accepted a Shawn Horcoff pass and sniped a shot over the blocker of Miikka Kiprusoff to take the lead. The Oilers failed to put the nail in the Flames coffin with an extended five on three opportunity and it would turn out to cost them as with just 1:05 left in the third, Matthew Lombardi would fire a shot past a screen set up by Curtis Glencross over the shoulder of Dwayne Roloson to tie the game and send it to extra time.
Overtime would settle nothing so we head to a shootout, but for a bizarre play to finish off the extra session where the Oilers player went to the bench to change, but nobody came on to replace him, and Cammalleri came in uncontested, but Roloson had the answer for him. So we headed to the shootout:
First Flames shooter – Todd Bertuzzi: Bertuzzi would wander in, made a couple of moves and then pulled out a lazy poke check into the net.
First Oilers shooter – Sam Gagne: Gagne, the Oilers shootout king, started to make his stick moves, but forgot to bring the puck with him negating his shot attempt.
Second Flames shooter – Jarome Iginla: Iginla came in wide and went to the backhand, and had Roloson beat, but couldn’t beat the post.
Second Oilers shooter – Robert Nilsson: Nilsson came in and as he started to make his moves, Kiprusoff focussed on the puck put out his only shootout move, the poke check, forcing Nilsson to miss the net on his shot.
Third Flames shooter – Mike Cammalleri: Cammalleri, more the one time shooter, didn’t look comfortable as he tried to get Roloson to make a move watching Cammalleri bumble the puck around, but Roloson didn’t bite and Cammalleri ran out of room before getting much of a shot off.
Third Oilers shooter – Ales Hemskey: Hemskey came in much like Nilsson, and same as Nilsson, got the poke check treatment from Kiprusoff, missing his shot attempt.
1. Dwayne Roloson: Roloson wasn’t looking his age at 39, he had pretty much an answer to everything the Flames threw at him, his only fault coming on Lombardi’s shot to send the game to overtime.
2. Jarome Iginla: Iginla is starting to heat up. He’s looking much better than he had in some of his recent contests scoring on a gimmie goal on the Cory Sarich pass.
3. Shawn Horcoff: Horcoff absolutely dominated the Flames in the faceoff circle going 72%. Horcoff also set up both Oiler goals.
It would be hilarious to give the big save to Kiprusoff on Gagne, only for the fact that Gagne didn’t even get a shot off, but in all seriousness, the best save of the night was courtesy Dwayne Roloson on Mike Cammalleri in tight in the first period. It looked like a sure goal for the Flames leading goal scorer but Roloson slid over to get a pad on Cammalleri’s shot.
Definitely the scariest hit of the night for Flames fans, and the funniest for Oilers fans: with three minutes left in the third Curtis Glencross sent an outlet pass to David Moss who headed back into the defensive zone, only to be met by Dustin Boyd who was heading to the bench. Moss seemed to get the worst of the hit, very scary for the Flames who are starting to run out of players to fill the secondary scoring load.
It’s rather difficult to pick out a specific player as the goat tonight for the Flames, or Oilers. Even the maligned Flames power play, while not scoring had some chances where they looked good. Perhaps the only thing to pick on was the Oilers five on three chance in the third that the Flames expertly killed.
This one has to go to Matthew Lombardi for his laser beam shot over the shoulder of Roloson to tie the game up at two with barely a minute remaining in the game. If he doesn’t score that goal, the Flames lead on the division is down to just six.
Odds and Ends
Curtis Glencross hates the Edmonton Oilers. He’s looked good of late, but tonight, he really wanted to show the Oilers up. Which in itself is still a good sign, because with Rene Bourque falling to injury for likely the remainder of the regular season, a guy like Glencross is one person who will be counted on to bring the game that Bourque has provided all season long…..As poor or weak as the Oilers might seem this season, even if they squeak into the playoffs, they have all season long gotten up for games against the Flames, and don’t expect that to change, regardless of the standings….Jamie Lundmark playing with Kyle Greentree and Todd Bertuzzi were actually a pretty good threat. Lundmark has proved to have chemistry with Bertuzzi in previous call-ups, and has chemistry with Greentree on the farm, and the line didn’t look out of place, except for Bertuzzi struggling with the puck at times trying to take shots….Kiprusoff was REALLY happy to get the win in the shootout, slamming his stick on the ice after stopping Hemsky, and actually smiling behind his mask as his teammates came onto the ice to congratulate him….Last comment: interesting interview from Jarome Iginla at the end of the game. Usually the most cut and dry comments coming out of the captain, but tonight he was rather animated, giving a little more than his usual boring interview. He looked like he’s having fun again, that or he’s been taking interview tips from Craig Conroy.
Calgary heads home to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Watch the game on pay per view or listen on the Fan 960. Game time is 7:00 PM MT.
Lines (To Start):
Cammalleri – Conroy – Iginla
Greentree – Lombardi – Bertuzzi
Glencross – Boyd – Moss
Prust – Lundmark – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Vandermeer
Regehr – Aucoin
Sarich – Pardy