On the road. In a third game in four nights. In three different time zones. You knew that the Flames were thinking they had a good chance at winning this one, with all the built in scheduling benefits that were their fortune this time around.
The Canucks were coming off two wins against two rivals, teams that they "get up" for. But the Canucks always get up for the Flames too, even when they were a not playing as well as they have this year. And they always seem to win in Calgary of late.
The start of this one, given the relative energy levels of the teams, would be crucial to one of the two teams getting the two points. With Ryan Miller having only 23 shots in the last game, and only four in the third period, he got the back to back start, with Ramo in net for the Flames.
The game started out in a fairly spirited manner, and then revved up a little more when Colbourne challenge Sbisa after Miller covered a puck. He was promptly dispatched by Lucas, The defenders seemed to have the upper hand on the offensive players for both teams early on, with the back and forth netting few chances.
The Canucks seemed the more effective team on their breakouts. They were doing just that, and had a good rush. Unfortunately for the visitors, Dorsett committed the crime of not stopping after his shot, bowling over the goaltender to give the Flames the first power play of the night. The home team did not even get in the zone for the first minute, and when they did, the defenders kept everything to the outside. The Flames got lucky towards the end, with Raymond in the slot as a puck bounced right to him. Miller stoned him, and Bouma as well on the rebound however, and the penalty ended without any damage.
The Flames did get some momentum off of the power play though, and it was a well timed TV time out that settled the Canucks down, as they steadied the ship after the break. After a solid Sedin line shift, Vey made a nice pass to give Vrbata a good look at goal that was saved, before getting his stick into the feet of Russell along the boards for a second straight power play for the Saddledomers. ( Willie did not like it, but it was one of those dramatic falls along the boards that are almost always called ) The penalty kill was even better in the first minute, denying even an entry into the zone.
All of the sudden though, it was like watching the 72 Habs. Miller stoned Wideman, Gaudreau,and Monahan, before Wideman tripped Daniel Sedin at the line. The first unit was out for 1:59 of it, and forced a couple good saves, as well as a couple more blocks. Vrbata on the backside play was maybe the best chance on a power play that at least "looked good".
Ranalds "call me Ronnie" Kenins is not going anywhere. His rush down the wing and that quick release beat another goaltender in the NHL, and the Canucks had the all important first goal, as well as the Riga, Latvia native's third in seven games. The Canucks have some depth., huh ? Where's this guy come from ? ( Thanks Mike Gillis ! ;-)
The rest of the period was the same as the rest, with a good pace and back and forth rushes. The Canucks seemed just the slightest bit sharper, but the Flames 11-8 edge in shots was indicative of their play as well. They got 6-7 of those on the two power plays, and without Miller's brilliance, the score would have probably been different. But it was a period that the supposed "tired" team could hang their hat on.
I'm not sure if "arena bias" had anything to do with the 9-0 edge in hits for the Flames, and I thought I saw a few Canucks throw the body. But the Flames were the more physical team in the first, to be sure.
( Elliote Friedmann Super Stat from the first intermission. The Top 4 defensemen in the NHL in Relative Corsi are in this game. Giordano, Tanev, Edler, and Brodie. I did not know that. Thanks @Friedge !
The Flames got the first good chance of the second, but shot wide, and then the Bo Horvat line had a very solid shift. Both teams seemed willing to play this entertaining style. As for the Canucks, they saw the results of sitting back against the Hawks, and corrected that problem versus the Bruins. They seemed to be committed to paying "on the front foot" with a ead.
The Flames then had their best pressure of the game five on five, as they had a couple shots make it to Miller, and produced some outstanding pressure. Tanev denied Raymond's pass on the same sequence, and the Canucks were abe to withstand the onslaught.
The Sedins had another solid shift about 6 minutes in, with some good work in the neutral zone leading to a D Sedin shot. After the break,
Disaster struck after the break this time, with Gaudreau being denied. Chris Tanev ( who took a wicked whack to the head on the post sliding into the net ) hit the puck, and it laid there for Monahan to poke in. The peg was just touching the ice when it happened, and this time the net getting knocked off did not help the visitors, as the game was tied.
The fourth line created a 3 on 1 a couple shifts later, and really should have done a little better than a Hansen shot into the crest. The Canucks were pushing for the lead again, and a spirited Sedin line shift ended with about ten players and three refs, but no calls. The second line then had maybe their best shift of the night, creating chances. But as the puck went up the other way, the change ( and defenders that were back ) left Monahan in the slot all alone, and he made no mistake, beating Miller high for a 2-1 goal that the Flames were full marks for.
Look Flames, and the rest of the NHL. If you are going to cross check the Sedins to the back of the head, do not be surprised when they put you on your ass as well. Daniel may have puled some puck taei kwan do to do it, but the reaction was way over the top, with a mob scene on the two brothers until their teammates could get there. Other superstars ? That is a power play. The NHL does not think that way about our identical superstars though. It was four on four hockey instead, with Daniel the one off the ice for the Canucks.
The Flames had some tremendous chances on the man less situation, but it was Vey and Higgins, on a two on one, who cashed in. Higgins looked to have scored, but it was an amazing save instead. The puck dropped off Ramo right to the puck of Vey, who poked it into the empty net to tie it back up.
It looked like the game was going to get to the break without incident, but a Henrik Sedin turnover gave the Flames a tremendous chance. The shot took Miller's mask off, forcing the whistle, and the game went to the intermission tied.
The hits had evened up a bit, with the Canucks having the second period edge at 7-4. The Flames had a 25-21 edge on the shot clock, after a wide open period saw them have a 14-13 edge. More troubling for the Canucks was the fact that Alexander Edler did not play the last 16 minutes or so of the second period. Let us hope it is not serious. The Canuck defensive depth cannot be stretched much further.
With the news that Edler was out with an "upper body injury", the Canucks were in tough against one of the best 3rd period teams in the NHL. ( the Flames' 69 goals in the 3rd period is tops in the league right now ). The Flames showed how they do that when the Canucks were guilty of not playing the rush that well, as they left Bouma alone in the slot. Stanton was the culprit, and Bouma made no mistake, beating Miller high for a 3-2 lead.
The Canucks went right back to work, as the Vey and Sedin lines put on some solid pressure. After starting out their shift in their own end, Bo and Co produced a wonderful chance, but Ramo made his best save of the night.
It was mostly all Canucks after that, with the goal spurring them on. The Flames would get some pressure, the Canucks would collapse to the net, turn it over or block the shot, and go the other way. The Flames were playing decently in their own end, but the Canucks were definitely the team pushing the play.
The Flames had given up the pretense of trading rushes, as it was all they could do to send the one guy and play the trap now. The were collapsing to the net, and blocking or getting in the way of passes. It seemed to be being played at straight time as well, as a long period without a whistle ended at 5:42, when Ramo denied a Hansen shot and let the TV timeout give his team a break.
A determined Henrik Sedin rush should have resulted in a goal, as Tanev missed a wide open net as he could not corral the rebound off the Burrows shot. Credit the Flames in the time after that. They had a little help from the refs simply refusing to call anything, allowing them to clutch and grab in their own end like a 70's team. But they killed some crucial time by forechecking well, something they did very well on this night.
The visitors pulled the goalie with just under a couple minutes left, although he had to go back in briefly with about 54 seconds left. Dorsett got a good chance off the rush, but that was it.
( Could Garry Galley cheer for the ####ing Flames any harder ? What is with these booth guys since Rogers took over ? I thought Simpson was bad, but this guy had me begging for Craig to return ! #yeesh )
Numbers and ..... ah, never mind. Here is the fine folks at hockey stats.ca, and you can see for yourself how close the possession graph was on the night. Here is the more traditional stats from ESPN.
Evidently the 21 turnovers the Flames had were not fatal. The Flames blocked 17 shots, to 9 blocks for the Canucks. Maybe Hartley will say they wanted it more" when he points that one out in the post gamer...
Credit the Flames with getting the goal that draws them into the tie with the Canucks now. The Canucks may only have one game in hand on them ( three in hand on the Sharks still, and FOUR on the Jets ), as well as the one they do have on their next opponent at Rogers Arena,the hottest team in the NHL. The Wild also won tonight, to make that game the next "biggest game of the year". I am just happy we get a two week break from these execrable bunch of "experts" that inhabit the booths for Rogers ( their ratings have tanked since the takeover, btw...just sayin' ) before we get them for every Saturday in March.
Small victories. I'll be back for the Devils and Islanders games...until then.