Generally it’s a good thing when you score first in a hockey game. Recently for the Flames it’s been exactly the opposite. An early lead has proven to be kryptonite for Calgary as of late, blowing leads of 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, and 1-0 respectively in their current four-game losing skid.
It seems no lead is safe for the Calgary Flames these days. So you’ll forgive fans for feeling less than secure when the Flames jumped out to a three goal lead tonight. Sure enough, four minutes into the second and the lead was down to one, leaving Flames fans to rip out whatever hair they have left. But what they failed to do at home, they succeeded in the desert, clinging onto their first-period lead and wrapping up two essential points, and denying the unbeatable Coyotes a point for the first time since January.
On The Line
After a more than disappointing homestand that Flames begin a two-night road stint that could save or break their season. A win tonight goes a long way in diminishing the damage done in the Saddledome and keeps them afloat in the Western Conference playoff picture.
In their most important game to date, the Flames came out with their best effort. Focused, driven and tenacious, the Flames forechecked hard and dominated puck possession. After a few close calls they were rewarded for their efforts when Cammalleri finished an over-passing play, slipping one five-hole on the usually impenetrable Smith. Glencross would add a shorthanded tally, throwing one on net from a sharp angle that found a way through. And if that wasn’t enough, just as the penalty expired Jokinen would take advantage of a rare Coyote defensive gaff and flip a puck over a desperate sprawling Smith. A perfect start for the Flames, but with blown leads in four consecutive losses there would be no breathing easy. Could they finally lock down an early big lead into a W?
As good as the Flames were in the first period, they were that bad in the second. The Coyotes bit hard, capitalizing early on some discombobulated Flames D. First the league’s worst powerplay found the net, Raffi Torres screening and tipping in a Yandle blast. Then barely two minutes later Rozsival finished off a Flames turnover by picking the top corner. Just like that, the lead down to one, Flames reeling, and an all too familiar sight for Flames fans. Steps were taken to curb the tide; first a time-out by Brent Sutter, and then a spirited tilt by Tim Jackman. But it was Kiprusoff who ended up sustaining the lead, somehow squeezing the puck between his legs on a Whitney breakaway and stoning the veteran again off a one-timer that caught him right between the eyes. Somehow the Flames survived the period with the lead still intact.
Give credit where credit is due, the Flames regrouped in the intermission and came out on a mission. Solid defensively and opportunistic offensively, this was the structured and calculated Flames team that went missing during their recent four game home stand. One major breakdown in the period almost led to the back of the net, as Whitney coyly found his pinching Ekman-Larsson who rang the very inside of the post as the puck skittered across the goalline. From there the Flames would control the chances, Moss and Cammalleri missing some golden opportunities to plunge the dagger. The captain would do the honours, breaking his scoring slump with an empty net gift from a selfless Stajan.
- Mark Giordano: +2, fearlessly throwing himself into black jerseys and in front of black rubber, including a puck to the face late in the game. Hopefully he is okay.
- Michal Rozsival: The most effective Coyote. Potted his first of the season and stepped in for Smith on a big save while the goalie roamed the corner.
- Jarome Iginla: The captain returned to form tonight. This is the effort the Flames will need from their leader the rest of the way. 1 G, 1 A, 4 shots and 5 hits.
On the heels of two early second period goals, and preparing to watch yet another early lead evaporate the Wizard, Ray Whitney, was sprung in alone. Kiprusoff would track him across the crease and deny the five-hole slide, an enormous save at that stage in the game.
Again, for the timing, the Tim Jackman bought with Twitter-king Paul Bissonnette. The Flames needed something to stem the onslaught, and Jackman’s fisticuffs provided the refresher the Flames desperately needed.
The early lead. It’s gotten to the point where you’re groaning whenever the Flames pot a couple goals early. They just don’t know how to play a second period when spotted a few goals. Something to work on going forward. Fortunately they managed to cling on tonight.
Tom Kostopolous. All hustle tonight, a great game.
Odds and Ends
Shots were 31 a piece tonight, breaking a string of 11 consecutive games where the Flames were outshot. Certainly one of their better efforts tonight, despite another horrid second period. Kiprusoff once again coming up big when needed. Speaking of hot goalies. What happened to Mike Smith tonight? The desert tender has been on fire posting a franchise record 11 straight victories and vaulting the Coyotes into a playoff spot. He was a disaster on this night, noticeably rattled and flubbing pucks all over the ice. So was February a Boucher-esque once-in-a-lifetime performance or is he the real deal? One thing’s for certain, he doesn’t have big skates to fill after Bryzgalov’s debacle in last year’s playoff…
Moss returned to the ice after a 48 game absence and was noticeable in his return. Would have been huge if he had finished off his breakaway late in the third to seal the win. Nice to have two balanced scoring lines, with the trio of Jokinen, Glencross and Moss retaining some of their chemistry. Cammalleri took the middle between Iginla and Tanguay and filled the role admirably. Nice to have some healthy bodies back in the lineup. If the Flames can play the rest of the way like they did tonight, they’ll stay in the playoff picture into April, which will keep things entertaining at the very least.
No time to pat themselves on the back. Another monumental game tomorrow night against the Ducks. 8 pm puck drop on Sportsnet West. Do you dare start Irving? I say yes. Perfect opportunity to break the Disney curse.
Lines (To Start):
Tanguay – Cammalleri – Iginla
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Kostopolous – Stajan – Comeau
Bouma – Horak – Jackman
Smith – Bouwmeester
Giordano – Hannan
Brodie – Sarich