Calgary Flames: James Neal gets a point in win over Minnesota Wild

ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 15: Eric Fehr #21 of the Minnesota Wild and Sean Monahan #23 of the Calgary Flames battle for the puck after a face-off during a game at Xcel Energy Center on December 15, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 15: Eric Fehr #21 of the Minnesota Wild and Sean Monahan #23 of the Calgary Flames battle for the puck after a face-off during a game at Xcel Energy Center on December 15, 2018 in St. Paul, Minnesota.(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Calgary Flames beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 but the bigger headline here is that James Neal managed to get a point.

REAL DEAL JAMES NEAL. While he didn’t get a goal, James Neal managed to get a point today in the Calgary Flames‘ win over the Minnesota Wild. There was some line juggling in the third period where Neal was put on the second line and it paid off as he fed a puck over to Matthew Tkachuk for the go-ahead goal for the 2-1 lead. This was Neal’s first point in seven games and the Flames seventh win in eight games.

Flames fans weren’t all that pleased with Bill Peters when he decided to dress Dalton Prout as the seventh defenceman and only go with 11 forwards for today, sitting Austin Czarnik out. It turned out to be somewhat pointless (as we all assumed) since there were three fights in the first period and none were by Prout.

With this win, the Flames continue to lead the Pacific Division with 44 points in 33 games. Let’s check out how they got here tonight.

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First period

Less than a minute into the game, Matthew Tkachuk and Matt Dumba dropped the gloves. This went back to the last time these two met where Dumba hit Mikael Backlund‘s head late in the game and Backlund continues to sit out due to injury from that.

Later, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle had a two-on-one chance from Parise over to Coyle and David Rittich came up big to make a good save.

Slightly past the midway mark, the Wild went on the first powerplay of the game. On the PP, Mark Jankowski and Mark Giordano switched spots on the PK, Jankowski got the puck out the zone and was on somewhat of a two-on-one breakaway with Gio, he fed it over to Gio who went top shelf and made it 1-0. That’s Gio’s second shorthanded goal in as many games. The Wild only had one shot on that PP.

Late in the game, the Calgary Flames took another penalty so they had to kill this one off yet again. The Wild had a couple of decent looks on that PP but they couldn’t get a shot away.

After that PK ended, Gio and Matt Hendricks got into it, so they both went off for fighting majors. Then about 20 seconds later, Sam Bennett and Ryan Suter also dropped the gloves, so they also went off for fighting. Things were getting a little testy this period, hey?

The Wild took a late penalty so the Flames started the second period on the PP. The Wild outshot the Flames 12-6 that period and completely outplayed them at 5v5.

Second period

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The Calgary Flames started this period on the powerplay but with Giordano sitting for the fighting major, they had to do it without him. At the end of the first PP unit, Sean Monahan had a great shot which Devan Dubnyk stopped and was shaking his left arm after that.

On the PP, the Wild took another penalty so the Flames had a 5on3 for 27 seconds. The Flames had quite a few good chances and lots of zone time, but Dubnyk stopped every shot he faced, so this game remained 1-0.

After two back to back penalty kills, the Wild were energized. They went back the other way and with a shot by Jordan Greenway that deflected off Oliver Kylington‘s leg, it became a 1-1 game.

Around the midway mark, the Flames started to push back some more and were adding some pressure. That paid off because, with around six minutes left, they went on a powerplay. With 46 seconds left on the PP, the Flames took a penalty so it was 4on4 for that amount of time.

The Flames had the majority of the 4on4 chances before the Wild went on the PP. The Flames even got a shorthanded breakaway, but this PP went scoreless. Right after that, the Wild had a two-on-one breakaway and Nino Niederreiter had a great chance to give the Wild the lead late in the period but Rittich came up big again.

With a minute left in the game, the Flames third line was putting some good pressure. Jankowski fed it over to James Neal who hits the post, because of course.

The Flames ended up outshooting the Wild in this period 14-9 and although had more attempts at 5v5, the Wild had more scoring chances.

Third period

There was some clear line juggling to start the third period for the Calgary Flames. Bennett was put on that top line alongside Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau and the second line was Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, and Neal.

Around the two-minute mark, the Wild got a couple good chances on Rittich, but both were stopped. Shortly after, Lindholm was sprung on a breakaway but he shot it high.

Things started opening up a little bit and Gaudreau had a great chance on a potential wrap-around, but Dubnyk was there to cut him off. Lindholm then had another chance on Dubnyk which was saved.

The lineup changes turned out to be beneficial because shortly after, the second line had a good chance and with a feed by Neal (???) over to Tkachuk, it’s a 2-1 game. James Neal finally got a point again! That’s his first point in seven games.

At this point in the game, the Flames were definitely outplaying the Wild, as they do in the third period.

Late in the third period, Coyle had a great chance to tie things up but Rittich came up big, yet again. The Wild were pushing hard in these last few minutes of the game and they got a powerplay with just over two minutes to go. Because Monahan needed to tie his skate.

Yes, you read that right. Monahan needed to tie his skate and they called that a delay-of-game penalty.

The Wild had some excellent chances late on that powerplay and with taking the goalie out, but Rittich came up huge to help the Flames for the win.

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The Flames, overall, didn’t play a great game, but it wasn’t terrible. They walked away with two points, but this one could have been anyone’s game, especially with how hard the Wild pushed in the final few minutes.

On to the next.