In the opening period, the Flames looked like a team that was missing defencemen. They were giving the Kings a number of clear chances, but David Rittich shut the door.
The Flames opened the scoring midway through the second. Cal Petersen misplayed the puck to Matthew Tkachuk, who fed Mikael Backlund in front of the net, who made no mistake putting the Flames up by one. Just seconds later, however, Johnny Gaudreau gave the puck away in the neutral zone and before anyone knew it, the puck was in the back of the Flames net. Just seconds after that, Austin Wagner was sprung on a breakway and roofed it over David Rittich. All three goals happened in 1.23.
Kurtis MacDermid added to the Kings’ lead, but the Flames were not going to go away easily. Elias Lindholm finished up a pretty passing play to put the Flames within one. Although they pressed and had their chances, Petersen stood on his head to keep the Kings’ lead. Jeff Carter added one late to put the Kings up by two, but with the net empty, Lindholm would add his second to keep it close. Although the Flames tried, they could not get that tying goal past Petersen. The Kings would add an empty netter, as Calgary fell 5-3.
5v5 Player Stats
- Andrew Mangiapane led the way for the Flames with a 58.6% CF. He was one of only five players over 50%
- Mark Jankowski posted a game low 20.0% CF. He was on the ice for two goals against and none for
- In his first ever NHL game, Alexander Yelesin posted an impressive 55.6% CF. He also had two individual corsi attempts to his name
- Tyler Toffoli, who has been linked with a move at the deadline, posted a game high 69.0% CF
- In his third game for the Kings, newly acquired Trevor Moore posted a game low 30.0% CF
- Carter was particularly dangerous for the home side, creating five individual scoring chances, and two individual high danger chances
Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick
Thoughts on the Game
As the Flames hit the final quarter of the season playing in a very tight Pacific Division, they have to put in a better attempt against teams that are down and out of the playoff hunt. This one was not their night. And maybe it was that the Kings just played smarter and harder, but the Flames did not play the same type of game that they did against Vancouver and San Jose in the last two games.
It felt very much like the Flames realized that they were missing two of their top defencemen. While in the last two games, the team seemed to take a step forward and understand that they were good enough without Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic to win games and make the playoffs, this game their defence was a liability. They struggled to get the puck out of the zone, they gave the puck away time and time again, and just felt out of sync.
The biggest issue for me was that the Flames needed their top defencemen to step up, and they simply did not. T.J. Brodie and Noah Hanifin were not the leaders that the team needed them to be. Hanifin especially late in the third could not make a breakout pass to get the team going, and it killed precious seconds that the team could have used to get shots on net. Michael Stone, a veteran of 465 NHL games, struggled defensively, and could not keep the team in this one. Even with 72% offensive zone shift start, he simply could not help contain the Kings.
Up front, it felt like the Kings had Gaudreau’s number. They played him very close in the offensive zone, and stripped him of the puck more than a few times. He was still dynamic, but most of his shots came from tough angles and far outside. And when Gaudreau gets stripped of the puck, it makes it harder for guys like Monahan to really get it going. Although they both looked better, the Kings did a great job controlling the Flames’ top two players. The line finished with a 46.1% CF, although Lindholm did have two of the Flames’ three goals.
Finally, credit has to be given to Rittich who was sensational throughout this one. With a leaky defense and tons of turnovers, he stopped a couple of breakaways and numerous odd man rushes to keep this game close. Although he finished with a 0.875 save percentage, he stopped seven of nine high danger chances he faced in all situations, and allowed only two medium danger goals, both of which were beautiful. He was the biggest difference maker for the Flames, and one of the big reasons they remain in the hunt for the post-season.
The Gaud, the Bad, and the UGLY
Bad: Another game where Jankowski got lost up and down the ice. The Flames need to look into what to do with him because he has become a liability when he plays
Ugly: Simply not enough effort from start to finish. They had bursts of desperation late in the game, but that is not going to be enough if they look at the post-season
Opponent: Anaheim Ducks
Standings: 6th in the Pacific
Season Series: 1-0-0
Photo by: Sean M Haffey/NHLI via Getty Images