Calgary Flames allow goal with under a minute to go, lose to Capitals

Another day, another game with the Calgary Flames allowing late-period goals. One which was under a minute to go in the game for the game-winner.

Another post-bye week game, another post-bye week loss. This is the third year in a row that the Calgary Flames have lost their first game when returning from the league-mandated bye week. “To be fair, this one wasn’t that bad of a loss, but it was still quite unfortunate.

One late period goal and another late-game goal which led to the game-winner for the Washington Capitals, and this one was a 4-3 win for the Caps, ending a seven-game losing streak. On the other end, the Flames’ nine-game point streak came to an end tonight.

In the first few minutes of the game, goalie Mike Smith gave the puck away to an opposing player which led to the opening goal. Now, where have we seen that before?

Also: Flames - please no bye week blues

James Neal also had a few chances tonight, but it’s James Neal, so of course, he couldn’t score. Let’s check out how the team got here tonight.

First period

Early in the game, as Cassie Campbell was talking about how good Mike Smith is at puck-handling, he passed it over to a Capitals player and Nic Dowd made it 1-0 three minutes in.

The best chance for the Calgary Flames came from Matthew Tkachuk seven minutes in when he stole the puck behind the net, but he couldn’t get it past Braden Holtby.

Right after, Jakub Vrana had a good chance on Smith, Smith initially stopped it but was way out of the net, the puck went to Evgeny Kuznetsov with an open net and it looked like it was going to be a 2-0 lead. The puck went right past him to which Michael Frolik got it, the Flames worked it back into the o-zone as he tried shooting it. Mark Jankowski got the rebound and shot the puck, but it hit the post. As that was happening, Travis Hamonic was caught in a bit of a scramble with Vrana, and he looked shaken up and went right away to the locker room after that.

That was a wild sequence.

Since that goal Smith allowed early on, it seems like he’s gotten more comfortable and made a few good saves.

With about four minutes to go in the period, Hamonic returned to the bench, which is great news. With under three to go, as the Flames top line just came off the ice after some good sustained pressure, Mikael Backlund came on the ice, stole the puck in the neutral zone, got around about four Caps players to slowly slide the puck past Holtby one-handed for a filthy, highlight reel, Peter Forsberg type of goal to even things up.

With under a minute to go, in perfect Flames fashion, the Capitals put some pressure. With two players on Lars Eller, that left Dmitrij Jaskin open and gave the Caps their lead back with just 36 seconds left. That’s two goals from the Caps fourth line.

This period finished 2-1 for the Capitals as the Flames outshot them 13-12 while all other attempts and chances stats were quite even between both teams.

Second period

The second period started almost like the way the first ended. Less than a minute in, the Calgary Flames were somewhat crumbled in their own zone to which Tom Wilson got the puck and made it 3-1.

Less than two minutes later, The Flames stole the puck and had a good chance in the offensive zone. TJ Brodie shot the puck from the point and Garnet Hathaway, right in front of Holtby, tipped it in to bring the Flames within one again.

There was a decent amount of back-and-forth chances, but the Caps had the edge in shots, while the Flames had the edge in attempts. A little over eight minutes into the period, the Flames took the first penalty of the game. The Caps went to work right away on the PP and had good pressure for the first minute with one shot and one post. The rest of the PP didn’t see a whole lot of chances, so this one went scoreless.

Hamonic had a long shift on the PK and left to the locker room again after it, but there didn’t seem to be anything that happened to him, so he may still be feeling the effects from the first period.

A few minutes later, the Flames took another penalty. On that PP, the Caps didn’t start it off that well, but they got better as it went on and had a couple of good chance but this one also went scoreless.

A few minutes later, the Flames took yet another penalty. The best chance for the Caps came with 20 seconds left when John Carlson shot a slapper from the point which hit the post and hit Smith’s back. Smith reached back and held the puck to not creep into the net to keep this a one-goal game.

Once Mark Giordano came out of the penalty box, he stole the puck and fed Jankowski on a two-on-one with Backlund, but it was still a one-goal game and that’s the way the period ended.

The Caps outshot the Flames 16-7 that period but the game was pretty evenly played at 5v5.

Third period

The Calgary Flames updated saying Hamonic will not return tonight with a lower-body injury. Early in the third period, the Flames got their first powerplay of the game. The Flames had three shots on that PP and had better chances in the final 20 seconds from the top unit, but this one went scoreless.

A few minutes later, Jankowski had a good backhand pass over to James Neal, but it’s James Neal, so you can predict what happened. But in case you can’t, once Neal had the puck, Holtby read the play well and quickly got over to rob Neal.

Shortly after, the Flames went on another PP, but much like the first one, this one saw maybe one solid chance and it went scoreless. With eight minutes left Brodie passed the puck over to Johnny Gaudreau at the point, Gaudreau decided to take his chance wit ha good snapshot and with Elias Lindholm in good positioning, he tipped it in to tie things up.

With under three to go, Gaudreau stole the puck in the defensive zone and it led to a good scoring chance for the top line, but this one was still even. With just under two minutes to go, Backlund took a questionable penalty to give the Caps a late powerplay and a big opportunity to win their first in eight games.

With under a minute to go, as the Caps entered the zone and it looked to potentially be off-side, the refs let it go and Kuznetsov made it 4-3 on the powerplay. After looking at a replay, it was clear that was the right call, so the Caps took a lead with under a minute to go.

The Flames couldn’t tie it up again, so their nine-game point streak came to an end and the Caps won their first in eight games.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad game played by the Calgary Flames and they outplayed the Capitals at 5v5. And while this wasn’t totally Mike Smith’s fault, with the Flames unable to capitalize on the powerplay, he certainly didn’t help with that first goal when he passed it to an opposing player and with that second goal when he decided to play the puck instead of holding it.

Next: Johnny Gaudreau named NHL's first star of January

Like I’ve mentioned before, the Flames can afford losses here and there. They still have a good lead in the Pacific Division, but the Winnipeg Jets are catching up. However, they’re in a comfortable spot and a loss here isn’t going to kill them.

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