Calgary Flames improve to five-game win streak vs. league best

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 11: The Calgary Flames celebrate their goal against Ondrej Palat
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 11: The Calgary Flames celebrate their goal against Ondrej Palat /

The Calgary Flames look to improve to a season-high five-game win streak tonight vs. the top team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s see how they did.

The Calgary Flames have already improved to a season-high four-game win streak two nights ago vs. the Minnesota Wild. Tonight, they’ll look to continue to improve on that with a win vs. the best team in the NHL this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won nine of their last ten home games. The Flames remain one of three teams undefeated in 2018 so far along with the Washington Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche.

A win tonight will put them (momentarily) back into a playoff spot. And luckily for the Flames, they’re quite good on the road this year. They’ve only lost four games in regulation on the road this season and Mike Smith has the best sv% on the road with 0.944. He’ll get the nod tonight which means that we can probably assume that David Rittich will get the start tomorrow night vs. the Florida Panthers.

However, the Flames powerplay is still plaguing them. They’re the worst team on the powerplay since the start of December at just 11.5%. They’ve scored just seven powerplay goals since the start of December on 61 PP opportunities. Their last eight games have all ended in one-goal games, and a powerplay here and there could help them be more secure in their leads and their wins.

Related Story: Flames extend win streak to four games vs. Wild

On a positive note, four Flames players head into this game on a four-game point streak: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Micheal Ferland, and Mark Giordano. Ferland is also on a three-game goal streak.

Let’s see how this game went down.

First period

The first period started with the Lightning getting an early chance on their first shift and Mike Smith already had to make a save a few seconds in. But then it went back the other way with the Calgary Flames top line and Micheal Ferland puts it in the net on the Flames first shot of the game, 29 seconds in. This line has been on first lately. Ferland now has a four-game goal streak and he along with Gaudreau and Monahan each have a five-game point streak. Ferland also has seven goals in his last 10 games.

The Flames are 14-4-2 when scoring the first goal, so let’s hope this holds up. But I don’t trust the Flames when they score the first goal, especially this early in the game. At one point, Troy Brouwer and Alex Killorn got into a fight, but that was basically all the other action that happened in that period. The Bolts came back strong and basically dominated all of the second half of the period.

There was quite a fast pace to the game, at one point, there was no whistle for a good seven minutes. The Flames got very outcorsi’d in that first period. Their last shot was at the 13 minute mark. Their last seven shot attempts of the period were all blocked.

The Bolts had 29 shot attempts compared to the Flames’ 18. They also outshot the Flames 16-7 and Mike Smith had to be sharp often. Good thing he has the best save percentage on the road, because the Flames should not be up by a goal right now.

The Bolts also had 10 scoring chances compared to the Flames’ five and three of those were high-danger chances. Let’s go on to the second period.

Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames /

Calgary Flames

Second period

The second period started as we expected – the Bolts starting it off hot. And of course, they score just 31 seconds in from the Calgary native, Brayden Point. Looks like we’re all tied up early in the second period and the Calgary Flames need to start getting pucks in deep a little better.

The Lightning go on the powerplay soon after, their first powerplay in four games. They have the third best PP in the league, but the Flames have also killed off 12 straight in their last four games, including killing all five vs. the Wild on Tuesday evening. Mikael Backlund even had a shorthanded chance at one point, then a slight scrum happened in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy, of course Garnet Hathaway was in that scrum.

But good news for the Flames, they managed to kill it off and have 13 straight penalty kills. They limited the Bolts to just two shots on that PP.

At one point, Cedric Paquette went the other way and Mark Giordano, in an attempt to stop him, managed to give Paquette a penalty shot. Gio was just trying to keep things interesting apparently. Mike Smith somewhat came up big, but the shot wasn’t that hard or dangerous of a shot, so we’re still at a one-goal game.

There was a bit of end-to-end action after, with some Flames finally getting a few chances. Then with about five minutes left in the period, the Flames head back on back on the penalty-kill after going four minutes without a whistle. We told you this was a fast-paced game.

This PK wasn’t as good as the first one. Unfortunately, the Bolts were winning the faceoffs in the Flames zone, so it’s not like the Flames could take away their clean zone entries like they did on the first PK. The Flames still managed to kill it off, but the Bolts were in the zone for a good 1:50 of a two-minute powerplay.

Right after the PK ended, the Flames go back the other way and Johnny Gaudreau dangles around Vasilevskiy and gives the Flames the lead again with 3:12 left in the period. To be fair, the Flames don’t deserve to be up a goal right now with the way the Bolts have been dominating the game. Flames fans know what this is like, with them dominating a lot in December and not getting rewarded. Is their luck finally starting to turn around?

Luck wouldn’t go their way for the rest of the period though, because the Calgary Flames will head to the powerplay within the last three minutes of the period. And we all know how painful it is to watch a Flames powerplay.

But what!? The Flames score a powerplay goal!?!? Sam Bennett gives the Flames a two-goal lead late in the period with a great move by TJ Brodie who went around the net and got it to Bennett who scored, thanks to a deflection off a Lightning defenseman.

I’m still shocked to be honest.

Like I said, the Flames definitely don’t deserve to be up in this game. The Bolts are dominating them at even-strength with 41 shot attempts compared to the Flames’ 25.

Third period

Victor Hedman didn’t return for the third period with a lower-body injury. Then a fan for some reason threw a puck on the ice when the Bolts were heading to the offensive zone. So thanks for that, fan.

Mark Jankowski made a good defensive play, then the Calgary Flames broke out and Jankowski jumped back on the rush, got the puck around a defenseman and scored a beauty of a goal to give the Flames a three-goal lead a little over two minutes into the period.

The Bolts go on the powerplay and got some good zone time again, including a rocket shot off the post by Mikhail Sergachev. The Bolts continued the pressure on the PP, but again, Mike Smith came up big and some shots that went wide, the Calgary Flames managed to kill this one off again.

Later in the period, dare I say it, Troy Brouwer made a good move in the defensive zone that led to a two-on-one breakout with Matthew Tkachuk who gave the Flames a four-goal lead with a little over 11 minutes left in the game. Ooh boy, Jon Cooper won’t be too pleased tonight.

The Bolts after that goal seemed a little disheartened, as any team would be, and somewhat lost their energy. The Flames were playing a safe game in the neutral zone and weren’t trying to get caught in the offensive zone at all. While the Bolts still got into the zone and had a few chances, the third period belonged to the Flames.

Andrew Mangiapane came really close to scoring his first NHL goal late in the game, but Vasilevskiy got his foot out to make the stop. This game ended 5-1 for the Calgary Flames and they’ve made their way back into a Wildcard spot.

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The Lightning outshot the Flames 34-24 and Mike Smith stopped 33 to 34 shots. He continues to be the best road goaltender. They’ll be in Sunrise tomorrow where they’ll battle the Florida Panthers and continue to improve their win-streak and climb their way up the standings.