Flames win 5-1 as Sabres spoil Rittich’s shutout with 17 seconds left

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 7: Mark Jankowski
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 7: Mark Jankowski /

The Calgary Flames needing to win almost every one of their remaining games. They’ll hope to start it off well tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Calgary Flames need to win at least 11 of their remaining 15 games to even be considered in making the playoffs. They’re hoping to get one tonight and start it off right against the Buffalo Sabres.

These two teams have met one other time this season where the Sabres won 2-1 in OT. And while the Sabres are one of the worst teams in the NHL right now, they’ve also won three of their last four games against the top teams in the league – the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Boston Bruins. So they’re not a team to be playing poorly against right now.

Former Flames netminder, Chad Johnson, will get the start in net tonight. Johnson played last season for the Flames in his hometown and his rights were traded in the trade that brought Mike Smith over. Smith is still injured, but good news for Flames fans, he was at practice these last couple of days.

David Rittich will get the start tonight. It’s his first start in a week and just his second start in 13 games. While he hasn’t been putting up great numbers while Smith’s been injured, it’s clear that he’s more reliable in a backup role and may not be ready for a starter role just yet.

All this being said, let’s check out how this game went down.

First period

The Calgary Flames had lots of energy to start this game off which is exactly what they need. Let’s just hope this doesn’t mean they’ll fall asleep by the third. A little over five minutes in, as the Flames were getting the puck to the net, it was loose around the crease to which Sam Bennett found it and made it 1-0 Calgary. Credit to Mark Jankowski for getting the puck there.

A few minutes later, three to be exact, the third line does it again. After taking the puck away in the Sabres own zone, they finally cleared it, but as the Sabres were changing, the Flames were right back in their zone. With a pass from Bennett to Jankowski who was basically open, shot it, and got it past Chad Johnson for a two-goal lead. The Flames are 9-0-0 whenever Jankowski scores, so tonight looks like it could go in the Flames’ favour. We love advanced stats.

Throughout the period, the Flames were the obviously better team. Within the last few minutes of the period, there was a bit of some end-to-end action and the Sabres got one decent chance with a couple minutes left of the period, but other than that, it wasn’t even close. The Flames were the better team.

After one period of the play, the Flames outshot the Sabres 17-6, completely outplayed them in terms of puck possession, and had 10 scoring chances, six high-danger chances, compared to the Sabres six scoring chances with just one high-danger chance.

Second period

The Calgary Flames didn’t come out with as much energy to start the second period and as a result, they took a penalty less than three minutes in. On that Sabres PP, Rittich came and made a great save and then Mark Jankowski saw a great chance and got a shorthanded breakaway chance, but Johnson stopped that five-hole from going in. As Dougie Hamilton came out of the box, they almost sauced him the pass for a breakaway but it was just a little too hard of a pass and he couldn’t handle it.

When their penalty ended, they came right back out. With a nice shot from Mark Giordano at the point and a deflected from Zemgus Girgensons, it’s a 3-0 game. Poor Chad.

A minute later, the Flames kept the pressure. After some nice passing plays from TJ Brodie to get it to Johnny Gaudreau and over to Sean Monahan for his 30th of the year, it’s 4-0 just six minutes into the second period. That was enough for the Sabres and they decided it was time for a goaltending change. Sorry, Chad.

The Sabres shortly after went on another powerplay. While they had some good passing sequences and other than one shot that hit the post, they didn’t get much else of a chance and another successful kill by the Flames.

Later in the period, Matthew Tkachuk was going down to the net as Robin Lehner stopped it. As Tkachuk stopped in front of the net, Lehner took it upon him to punch Tkachuk in the face for some reason. Listen, I know Tkachuk can be a pest, but he didn’t do anything wrong there. The Sabres took a penalty.

On that penalty, Dougie Hamilton scored his 15th goal of the year and continues to surpass his career-high. That’s good retaliation on Lehner, hey? The Flames finished this period 5-0 and outshoot the Sabres 31-17. Let’s head to the final frame.

Third period

Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames /

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames didn’t come out with as much energy again. While they weren’t playing badly, they just weren’t putting as much pressure on the forecheck. But I mean, leading by 5-0, can you really blame them?

It was quite an uneventful period. Other than a powerplay which the Flames couldn’t set up that effectively on, not that much happened.

And then, with 17.1 seconds left in the game, as the Flames were leading 5-0 and David Rittich was about to get his first career shutout, the Sabres score. Because of course, they did. The Flames can never have anything nice.

Other than that, this was a great game played by the Flames. Even though they were leading 5-0 heading into the third and they didn’t apply as much pressure on the forecheck as they were, they still didn’t let the Sabres get a lot of chances in the third.

Something somewhat nerve-racking was Monahan going down the tunnel with a few minutes left in the game with a trainer following him, so we’ll have to find out his status tomorrow. This WOULD happen. This is the ultimate Flames move. They play an all around great game and get their shutout spoiled with 17 seconds and potentially lose their leading goal-scorer.

But again, I could be jumping to conclusions. Everyone cross your fingers that it wasn’t anything serious and that he just really needed to use the bathroom.

Next: Flames Daily - Mike Smith joins practice

This was the Calgary Flames first win in regulation in Buffalo since March of 1996. The Flames are now 10-0-0 whenever Jankowski scores. And they’re 4-0-0 whenever Jankowski and Bennett score in the same game.

Maybe those two should score more often. Just a thought.