It wasn’t the best game they’ve played but the Calgary Flames continue to find ways to win hockey games. They beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 tonight.
This wasn’t a great game, but thanks to both goaltenders, the Calgary Flames walked away with the two points. Semyon Varlamov has been struggling as of late and today was no different, allowing two goals on the first four shots and four goals on 15 shots. David Rittich, on the other end, was incredible and only allowed the goals on 35 shots, earning him tonight’s first star.
Johnny Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games with two assists tonight. Mark Giordano had three assists tonight, getting him to 43 points and averaging a point-per-game. He’s now third in scoring among defenders. Matthew Tkachuk also reached 20 goals tonight for a second straight season. He’s going to be a consistent 20-goal scorer for a majority of his career.
The Flames continue to lead the Western Conference with 60 points in 45 games and sit in second place in the league.
Let’s check out how the teams got here tonight.
The first period started with the Calgary Flames taking a penalty just two minutes in. The Avalanche were doing quite well and put up some decent chances, but Garnet Hathaway was fed on a break from Derek Ryan, but he hit the post.
The rest of the PP went scoreless, but the Avs put up two good shots and had another good scoring chance. Shortly after that penalty ended, Rasmus Andersson did a great job in the offensive zone to create a chance, followed by Johnny Gaudreau playing the puck behind the net, getting it over to James Neal who shot it, and Mikael Backlund got the rebound for the first goal of the game. That’s now a six-game point streak for #13.
Around the midway mark, the Avs had a bad turnover at their blue-line, Mark Giordano got the puck over to Sam Bennett who easily got it to Mark Jankowski and he absolutely wired it past Semyon Varlamov to give the Flames a 2-0 lead.
A few minutes after that goal, the Flames had somewhat of a turnover and the Avs top-line had a few great chances on David Rittich, but one was stopped and some went wide.
Inside four minutes to go, Rittich attempted a stretch pass but it was cut off at the blue-line by the Avs top-line. Gaudreau managed to momentarily get it out of their zone but it came back to Sean Monahan. He passed it over to Noah Hanifin, it bounced off his skate and Nathan MacKinnon cut the lead to one. A sequence of bad plays by the Flames against one of the best lines in the NHL and this is what you’re going to get.
With under three to go, the Avs went on another powerplay. The Avs did a good job of working the puck down low, but they couldn’t quite get other good chances from further out and the rest of the PP went scoreless.
After the Flames killed off that penalty, the Flames top-line had a great chance with Gaudreau dangling and making plays. The puck went down the other way and Matt Calvert had the puck, got the puck over to Erik Johnson who somewhat fooled Rittich on which way he was going to go and tied the game with just 18.4 seconds remaining in the period.
This period finished 2-2 and while the Flames had an excellent first half, the Avs came back. Avs goaltending continues to hurt them, allowing two goals on the first four shots. The Avs outshot the Flames 11-5 that period but scoring chances at 5v5 were quite even and the Flames had two HDCF while the Avs had none.
Opposite from the first period, the Calgary Flames got a powerplay a little over two minutes into the period. They initially had a few good looks and had some in the dying seconds of the powerplay, but this one went scoreless and they couldn’t get any shots on net.
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After that penalty ended, the Flames had a great chance led by Matthew Tkachuk, but it was still a 2-2 game. Around the seven-minute mark, Backlund tried clearing the puck but just overskated a little and it caused a turnover which led to a good scoring chance for the Avs top-line. This also led to a powerplay for the Avs.
In the first half of the PP, the Flames did a good job of killing it off and keeping the Avs on the outside. They came back and had a few good chances, but Rittich made a few good saves to keep this a tie game.
Around the midway mark, the Flames lines were a little crumbled and Jankowski, Neal, and Gaudreau had a great chance in the offensive zone and finally got their first shot of the period, but it was stopped.
After that chance, the Flames were finally getting more possession and through some good plays, the Flames got a powerplay. On that powerplay, it only took them 10 seconds to capitalize. Right off the faceoff, the puck went over to Gaudreau who passed it back to Gio. He got it over to Elias Lindholm who got within the circle and just wired it past Varlamov. That’s now three goals on nine shots for the Flames.
Late in the period with just a minute left, Gaudreau had a great shot on Varlamov that was stopped, and this period finished 3-2. This period started out quite bad for the Flames and while they had a good powerplay, overall, it was a bad period and the Avs outshot them 10-6.
Tkachuk had a bad giveaway in the Calgary Flames zone early in the period which led to an Avs scoring chance. The Flames top-line after that went the other way and had a great chance to increase their lead, but Lindholm’s shot hit the post.
A few minutes later, it was basically all Avs putting on the chances and Rittich had to be sharp. Before the midway mark, as the Avs were putting lots of pressure, the Flames went the other way. As Michael Frolik was making moves behind the net, the puck ended up going to Gio who shot the puck, it was going wide, but it deflected off of Frolik’s shin and into the net. 4-2 lead for the Flames to take some pressure off of them.
That’s also Gio’s third assist of the night and he’s now averaging a point per game again.
With about five minutes left in the game, it looked like Gaudreau and Lindholm would get a two-on-one breakaway, but the puck was just a little quicker than Gaudreau and he couldn’t quite get to it in time. After an attempt by that top line, the Avs went the other way which also resulted in a penalty for the Flames with about four minutes to go.
On that powerplay, the Avs couldn’t set it up that well at the start. As they tried to set up and Giordano lost his puck, he still managed to block a shot which the Flames managed to clear the zone. A great penalty-kill at a crucial time for the Flames and especially for the captain.
After that PP ended, the Avs continued to add a lot of pressure with Rittich having to make a couple of great saves. The Flames also got lucky with Tyson Barrie getting basically an open net, but it went wide.
With under a minute to go, Gaudreau was somewhat fed on a break for an empty net, but the puck was too quick for Gaudreau. He tried to get the puck behind the net, tried passing it out front to Monahan, but it hit the post and didn’t get to Monahan.
The Avs went the other way and Miikko Rantanen shot the puck which looked to be stopped by Rittich, but it managed to sneak through him and the Avs were within one. But that didn’t last long because Tkachuk had seen enough and gave the Calgary Flames the two-goal lead back. That was Tkachuk’s 20th goal of the season.
This one finished 5-3 for the Flames however, it wasn’t a great game. The Avs played hard and deserved the win just as much. But both goaltenders were the reason this game went the way it did.