In a true measuring stick match, the Calgary Flames hosted the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning last night. In a meeting between the number one and number two teams in the NHL, it had all the makings of an amazing game and it was exactly that.
The Lightning opened the scoring off a broken play just 3:38 into the first period with Ondrej Palat burying a juicy puck past David Rittich. However, the Flames didn’t like that, and responded with three straight goals of their own from Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan, and Mikael Backlund. Heading into the dressing room with a 3-1 lead after 20, the Flames were in a great position to put this game to bed with a solid second period.
That didn’t happen. The Flames aren’t a great second period team and the Lightning took full advantage last night. They evened the game with two goals, one from Steven Stamkos that was directed in perfectly by an errant TJ Brodie stick, and the game-tying marker by Alex Killorn. Both goals came inside the first six minutes of the period. The teams would trade chances the rest of the period, and headed into the second intermission tied at three apiece.
The third was more of the same. It was back and forth until a Dan Girardi point shot was deflected in off Garnet Hathaway with less than five minutes to go in the third. The Flames were in tough to win, but the best third period team in the league wasn’t going down without a fight.
The Flames pressed hard to equalize and with under three minutes to go in regulation, Johnny Gaudreau tied the game on a breakaway going five-hole on Louis Domingue. He jumped approximately 13 feet in the air during his celebration, and this game was going into overtime.
Domingue was the star of the show the rest of the way. He stopped seven Flames shots in the extra frame, including three glorious chances by Monahan, but neither team could break through in the three-on-three.
The shootout that followed wasn’t easy either. For some reason, the Flames tried the same move in almost every shootout attempt and Domingue had no issues. Still the Flames were able to hang in there for seven rounds before ultimately surrendering the second point to the Lightning off a far-side JT Miller shot.
What a game.
|All Situations||5v5||SVA 5v5|
5v5 Player Stats
- Sam Bennett led the Flames with 65.9% CF.
- Ryan Lomberg was the worst Corsi player in the game at 0% (0-2).
- Gaudreau led both teams with nine iCF and seven iSCF in the game.
Tampa Bay Lightning
- Killorn led the Lightning wtih 72.7% CF.
- Miller finished last on the team with 23.8% CF.
- Nikita Kucherov finished with a game-high 76.9% SCF (10-3).
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Bennett
Quine – Jankowski – Neal
Lomberg – Ryan – Hathaway
Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Kylington – Andersson
Tampa Bay Lightning
Palat – Stamkos – Gourde
Johnson – Point – Kucherov
Killorn – Cirelli – Miller
Erne – Paquette – Callahan
Hedman – Girardi
McDonagh – Cernak
Stralman – Sergachev
Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff
Thoughts on the Game
All I have to say is, wow. That was one of the most entertaining games I’ve seen between two truly excellent teams and they did not disappoint in the slightest. I could probably drone on and on about it but let’s just discuss a few topics.
The first is Gaudreau. My goodness, when this guy decides to kick it into high gear, I don’t think anyone can consistently stop him. Gaudreau is truly one of the most electric, high skilled, elite playmakers in the game right now and when he has the puck, good things happen. The way he absolutely took over the game last night was magical and if it wasn’t for him, the Flames would have bowed out peacefully in regulation. There has been a lot of buzz around Matthew Tkachuk this year and how great he’s been, but don’t sleep on how essential Gaudreau is to this Flames team. He proved last night that he’s still the team’s best player and he has no intention of passing that crown to anyone just yet.
The second is Rittich. Yes, he let in four goals last night. But I will not listen to anyone who tries to blame more than 1.5 of those goals on Big Save Dave. He made a ton of excellent saves to let the Flames go toe-to-toe with the best team in hockey, and without him I don’t think the Flames earn a point. He was stellar again in the net and though I think Bill Peters will start Mike Smith against the Blues tomorrow, Rittich should get the majority of starts the rest of the way. He held his own against the most potent offense in the league and I trust him to keep the Flames in every game he plays.
Lastly, I want to touch on the shootout. I am an avid hater of the shootout for all the obvious reasons, but mostly because it stops really good games from ending in a really good way. The shootout was a major buzzkill last night and I think most Flames fans knew that the Lightning had a serious edge once the five minutes of overtime ticked away. The Flames aren’t historically good in the shootout, I don’t think they really practice the shootout, and honestly I don’t think they should. They’ve done a terrific job winning games in overtime this year and when it gets to the shootout it seems to just come down to a coin flip. Even last night, where I think most people thought the Lightning had it in the bag and even with a deep, talented roster, the Flames went seven rounds with them and were one shot away from winning. Granted the Lightning missed a few open nets but still, at the end of the day, the shootout is stupid and they should have played another five minutes of overtime last night.
Can’t wait for seven of these games come June (hopefully).
The Gaud, the Bad, and the Ugly
Good: The Flames stacked up against the best team in the league. Time to respect them as a legitimately good team.
Bad: The Flames squandered a 3-1 lead in the second period. Their second periods are by far their worst and definitely an area to work on going forward.
Ugly: Doing the same thing in 5/7 shootout attempts. Abolish the shootout but until that happens, maybe try shooting the puck?
Opponent: St. Louis Blues
Standings: 6st in Central
Season Series: 1-1-0