Sometimes NHL schedule makers are just cruel. They schedule 2 games in 3 nights for the Flames against both of the combatants in the 2008 Stanley cup final. Yikes. Calgary came out with one of their better efforts of the year on Monday do dust off the Wings at home to the tune of a 5-3 victory. However Pittsburgh would be a different story. The Penguins came out to play, and after a spirited playoff-esque affair the Penguins sent the Flames packing with a 2-0 home victory.
On The Line
Calgary just nabbed 2 huge points at home against Detroit to raise their division lead back to 5 points over the Canucks, who are on a vector to claiming the division title themselves. With the Canucks seemingly unable to lose any games and winning last night to close within 3 points, its imperative for Calgary to get at least 2 points out of the back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow. Pittsburgh has not lost a regulation game in a month, and have solidified a playoff position in the East. With home ice advantage still within their grasp, there is no reason to expect them to play any different than they have been.
A very entertaining 1st period started with the Flames dictating the play and earning an early powerplay which saw them generate a couple chances but unfortunately, no lead. Pittsburgh struck first on their first powerplay at 8:20, when Crosby slid the puck underneath a spread eagle Kiprusoff straight to Kris Letang who had a giftwrapped puck which he knocked home for his 9th goal of the year. On the next Calgary powerplay David Moss missed an open net when he rang his wrist shot off the crossbar while looking for his 20th goal. It was a very good first period for Calgary, but they skated to the dressing room with a 1-0 deficit.
Period 2 was much of the same. End to end action with a plethora of goal scoring chances. Both teams came close, with Calgary getting the best chances. Glencross came close on back to back 2-on-1’s, with Fleury robbing him both times, and Adrian Aucoin hit the post on a late PP with Malkin in the box serving a double minor for a high stick on Jim Vandermeer. 1-0 Penguins entering the 3rd. Some rough stuff near the end of the period seemed to incense Jarome Iginla. Would that act as the stimulus for the captain to have a big 3rd?
Pittsburgh seemed to have an answer for every attack the Flames could muster in the final frame. Marc Andre Fleury made many stops, some spectacular, but most were just good solid positioning and excellent rebound control. The Penguins would add some insurance when Malkin danced into Calgary territory, and fed a back pass to Hal Gill who roofed his 2nd goal of the season past a screened Kiprusoff. The Flames came up short, and suffered the shut-out, only their second of the season.
1. Marc Andre Fleury: Stopped all 31 shots Calgary tried to put past him and played the puck very well outside his crease.
2. Evgeni Malkin: Only 1 assist, but he was easily the best player on the ice. Sidney who? Just kidding, but Malkin was the better of the 2 young superstars tonight.
3. David Moss: The Mossman had a game high 6 shots, while remaining snake-bitten for his 20th goal. Best Flame leading the way for Calgary’s best line of the night.
Marc Andre Fleury slid across his crease to steal away a sure Curtis Glencross goal on a 2-on-1 for the Flames. Huge save as that would have tied the game at 1-1 had it found the net. 19 times out of 20 that puck goes in.
Chris Kunitz clobbered Craig Conroy. Say that 5 times fast. Conroy was dishing off a pass as he gained the blueline and Kunitz hammered him from the side sending him head over feet to the ice. Brooks Orpik also plastered Dustin Boyd hard into the boards in the second period for the honorable mention.
The Calgary powerplay….again. While I’ll admit the PP actually looked decent, 0 or 5 is not acceptable. They just didn’t get it done. Chances aplenty, but no results.
Evgeni Malkin. When you can make Hal Gill look like Mike Green, you deserve the Mr. Clutch award. Malkin made a beautiful behind the back drop pass to a trailing Gill who found the net with a laser-like wrist shot for the 2nd and backbreaking Pittsburgh goal.
Odds and Ends
Maybe it’s time to break up the Iginla – Jokinen experiment for a while. After a great start, the 2 just aren’t on the same page. Glencross – Conroy – Moss is just a beautiful combination. Those guys have real chemistry. Robyn Regehr was 4th among Flames’ defencemen for icetime with only 17:14, behind Phaneuf, Aucoin, and Leopold. Calgary outshot Pittsburgh 31-28. Very playoff like atmosphere in this game, and I think it was a good loss for the Flames. They played hard, hit some posts, missed some open nets, and were robbed by a goaltender on top of his game. They kept the big 2 relatively in check; 2 points between them which is pretty good considering their normal production rate. Some comedy at the end of the game when Pittsburgh missed about 8 chances at the Flames empty net. The best of the bunch being Matt Cooke missing twice on 2 unobstructed shots. Pretty funny to watch. This loss makes tomorrow’s game so much more crucial. The Flames may have lost tonight, but I am not upset about it. Nor should you be. No need to freak out, Calgarypuck.com.
The Flames roll in to Columbus tomorrow night to take on the impressive Blue Jackets. Never thought I would say that. Game time is 5:00 PM MTN, and you can catch the game on either Sportsnet West or the Fan 960.
Boyd – Jokinen – Iginla
Glencross – Conroy – Moss
Cammalleri – Langkow – Lundmark
Van der Gulik – Peters – Nystrom
Phaneuf – Vandermeer
Regehr – Aucoin
Sarich – Leopold