The Calgary Flames continued their gauntlet week, this time facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both teams were coming off regulation losses and were hungry to get back into the win column. For Calgary, they were also looking to prevent the Lightning from sweeping the season series, having previously lost their matchup by a score of 4–1.
However, two months after their first meeting, the Flames are arguably a much harder team to play against, and it’d make for an exciting battle of two of the league’s best.
The Flames had an early power play just 35 seconds into the game, but they weren’t able to convert on the man-advantage. Before the midpoint of the first period, Calgary went onto their second power play. This time, they’d be successful. It didn’t take too long for the Flames to set up, and while Tyler Toffoli was primed for an opportunity in front of the crease, it’d be Johnny Gaudreau to pick up the loose puck and bank it off Andrei Vasilevskiy’s back to go ahead by one.
The Lightning pushed back and had a few good chances to tie the game, but Jacob Markstrom was stellar in his net and prevented the Lightning from scoring for the whole period.
In the second, both teams were playing to their strengths and it was a chess match on the ice. However, with under five minutes to go, the Lightning finally go onto the scoreboard. Ross Colton centred the puck and Alex Killorn was position right in the slot to redirect it pass Markstrom.
The Flames responded however. With exactly one minute remaining in the period, Gaudreau did the exact same thing he did one period ago: score a bank shot off of Vasilevskiy. Whatever positioning or body language Vasilevskiy had been, Gaudreau took advantage of it twice in one game. Both plays require unbelievable eyes for the game but to see him do it twice in a row was a sight to behold.
Whatever little gap there was between the post and Vasilevskiy, Gaudreau took it as an opportunity to turn into a target—and it paid off.
Although Gaudreau’s goal came late in the period, the Flames would strike again before the period was over. With just eight minutes remaining, Mikael Backlund redirected an Erik Gudbranson shot past the Lightning goaltender to extend Calgary’s lead to 3–1 heading into the final 20 minutes of the game.
With the assist, 30-year-old Gudbranson set a new career-high with 14 points, surpassing his previous high of 13, earned back in 2014–15 when he was with the Florida Panthers.
Facing the two-goal deficit, the Lightning entered the third period with a simple goal of cutting into the Flames’ lead. However, Markstrom was up to the task and turned away the few shots he faced in the final frame.
With seven minutes to go, the crowd was presented with an opportunity to send their hats flying onto the ice as Gaudreau scored his third goal of the night for the hat trick. Elias Lindholm had control from behind the net and passed to a wide open Gaudreau who made no mistake on the one-timer. It’s a bit uncanny that all three of Gaudreau’s goals involved something happening from below the goal line, but it was just one of those nights.
As the game drew towards its close, the Lightning were visibly frustrated and a couple of penalties were handed to Jan Rutta and Steven Stamkos in rapid succession with roughing calls against Sean Monahan—Stamkos going as far as dropping the gloves and throwing punches on him.
The Flames ended the game with a 5v3 power play, but they were more interested in killing the clock. Rather than sending Gaudreau out for a chance at a fourth goal, the Flames closed out with an atypical power play unit.
As it so happened, Calgary ultimately returned the favour to Tampa Bay, ending the regular season series with both teams besting each other at home by identical 4–1 final scores.
Check out the data visualisations from the game below!
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