About Last Night #45: Rittich rescues the Flames to sweep the season series against the Avalanche

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The Calgary Flames returned home on a four-game road trip where they were winners of three. They met the Colorado Avalanche for their third and final meeting of the season.

The Flames got up to an early 1-0 lead from a mix-and-match forward line. With Elias Lindholm taking a breather after a penalty kill, James Neal took a shift with the first line. However, Sean Monahan would finish his shift and swap with Mikael Backlund. While unsure of who his linemates were at the time, Johnny Gaudreau took the puck behind the net and got away from Sheldon Dries to find Neal who took the initial shot. Backlund picked up the rebound and swiftly scored his tenth goal of the season.

On the Flames next shot, which came nearly five minutes later, they gained a 2-0 lead on the Avalanche. A weak clearing attempt from Alexander Kerfoot was picked up by Mark Giordano. Catching Colorado on a bad line change, the Flames captain spotted two of his teammates skating in on offence. Sam Bennett connected with Mark Jankowski who beat Semyon Varlamov a quick wrist shot.

Despite being down 2-0, the Avalanche would surge back. David Rittich attempted to clear the puck but was intercepted by Gabriel Landeskog. The Flames quickly regained possession but an errant pass from Sean Monahan went off of Noah Hanifin‘s skate. Mikko Rantanen had a perfectly timed stick-lift that caused Hanifin to lose his stick, allowing Rantanen to grab the puck. Throwing it out in from of the net, Landeskog passed the puck off to Nathan MacKinnon who one-timed it past Rittich.

In the final minute of the first period, Matt Calvert skated the puck from his end into the Flames’ end uncontested, and passed the puck up to Erik Johnson who beat Rittich to tie the game at two a piece.

Much of the second period was controlled by the visitors. The two teams each traded unsuccessful power plays, but on Calgary’s second power play of the night, they made quick work and regained their lead. The Flames won the face-off and in a few quick passes, the puck made its way from Gaudreau to Giordano to Lindholm, who was wide open to snipe his 21st goal of the season. Calgary led by one after two periods; shots were 21-11 in favour of Colorado.

Heading into the third period, the Flames almost added to their lead courtesy of some nifty passes from their top line, but a Lindholm shot would go off the post and the score would remain 3-2. Colorado would continue to pressure the Flames, but were unable tie the game.

Near the midpoint of the final frame, the Flames finally maintained offensive pressure and a Giordano shot going wide went off of Michael Frolik into the net. Frolik joined his line-mate Backlund in also scoring his tenth goal of the season on the same night.

In the final minute of the third, Gaudreau was inches away from scoring on an empty Colorado net but was unable to catch up to the puck in time before it went behind the net. A quick centring attempt went off of the post and was too fast for Monahan to corral the puck. Rantanen would score on the ensuing rush to bring the score to 4-3 with 38 seconds left.

Eerily similar to what happened against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Flames faced a one-goal lead with little remaining and needed to close the game out. With the Avalanche’s net still empty, Matthew Tkachuk was able to fire off a shot to seal the game. Tkachuk would be the third and final member of 3M to hit a milestone in the game. He scored his 20th goal of the season with 10 seconds remaining.

The Flames won 5-3 to sweep the season series against Colarado; it’d be their second sweep in a row after doing the same to the Blackhawks two nights prior.

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 34.7% 41.3% 42.9%
SCF 34.9% 44.4% 44.4%
HDCF 38.9% 55.6% 53.9%

5v5 Player Stats

Calgary Flames

  • 3M and the first pairing were the only Flames above 50 CF%
  • Garnet Hathaway was a game-worst 20 CF%, Lindholm was close behind at 22.7 CF%
  • Frolik and Jankowski led the Flames with four individual scoring chances each

Colorado Avalanche

  • MacKinnon had a game-high 67.5 CF% and six individual scoring chances, Landeskog was the only other play with six
  • Speaking of Landeskog, he also had nine individual corsi events, three of which were high-danger
  • The only Avalanche to post a sub 50.0 CF% was Johnson, who was at 48.6 CF%
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Line Combinations

Calgary Flames

Gaudreau – Monahan – Lindholm
Tkachuk – Backlund – Frolik
Bennett – Jankowski –  Neal
Hathaway – Ryan – Czarnik

Giordano – Brodie
Hanifin – Hamonic
Prout – Andersson

Rittich
Smith

Colorado Avalanche

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen
Jost – Kerfoot – Compher
Nieto – Soderberg – Calvert
Andrighetto – Dries – O’Connor

Girard – Johnson
Cole – Barrie
Graves – Nemeth

Varlamov
Grubauer

Stats courtesy: DailyFaceoff

Thoughts on the Game

The Flames were heavily outplayed by the Avalanche and it wasn’t close. While it’s easy to make an excuse that they were returning from a largely successful road trip and needed some time to return to game-form, they probably know as well as anyone that their play was sloppy and they let Colorado run all over them.

It wouldn’t be surprising if head-coach Bill Peters spends a lot of time in the next couple of practises getting the Flames to clean up their play. Thankfully, the next five of six games are at home and there will be plenty of time to do exactly that. With the Pacific Division race giving little to no breathing room, they need to play at their absolute best heading into the all-star break.

What transpired against Colorado was largely forgettable and the Flames need to sort themselves out. Their best player was easily their goaltender; Rittich was poised and prevented the Avalanche from running away with the game. Fortunately for the Flames’, they were able to score when it mattered most, but they have work to do.

It’ll be telling how the Flames handle their next stretch of games. In the six games remaining before the all-star break, five will be against non-playoff teams. The Flames absolutely cannot let these games get away from them. They escaped last night with two points, but that type of play isn’t going to fare very well in earning them much more.

The Gaud, the Bad, and the Beautiful/Ugly

Good: Shooting percentage, right?

Bad: It’s not a good look to allow 35 shots while only mustering up 16. They were lucky they were able to score as many times as they did.

Beautiful: The triple milestone night for 3M! Backlund and Frolik now have 10 goals each, Tkachuk has 20.

Next Game

Opponent: Florida Panthers
Record: 17-17-7
Standings: 5th in Central
Season Series: 0-0-0


Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

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