It’s been a fun week for the Calgary Flames. They won over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday, and then walked away with another win in Buffalo against the Sabres the next evening. Last night’s game put the nail in the coffin for their opponents this week as they started off slow. But we saw the return of the “cardiac kids” for another season as they made a comeback reminiscent of a few seasons ago when Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan first entered the league.
Head Coach, Bill Peters, started us off with the 3M line, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund, and Michael Frolik up front. On defense, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie were reunited along with Mike Smith in net.
A mere 30 seconds into the game, Frolik took a weak hooking call that gave the Avalanche a man-advantage, but the Flames fought back with a 2 on 1. Elias Lindholm skated the puck up the ice with Backlund on his side, but Backlund couldn’t intercept the pass and the chance was blown.
With some back and forth play in the first period, Smith looked focused in net and the Flames dominated the majority of the period with their offensive plays in spite of the 0-0 score after 20 minutes. The shots on net were in favour of the home team, 13-4, but Semyon Varlamov stood solid in net for Colorado.
With a hooking penalty called on Colorado early in the second period, the Flames had a chance to get on the scoreboard. But hockey doesn’t always work out the way it should and the Avalanche opened the scoring with a short-handed goal. The Flames looked a little shaky and disorganized at the beginning of the period. The Avalanche went on to bury another and give them a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Backlund positioned himself in front of the Colorado net to take a pass from Tkachuk who was behind the net and the Flames were on the board, 2-1.
Calgary fell behind 3-1 after a faceoff when the Avalanche flipped the puck down the ice, which beat Travis Hamonic, and then rookie, Sheldon Dries, passed to Colin Wilson who was open in front of Smith and scored. It was all Colorado in the second period as they buried another goal that was called off because of an early whistle, and then Carl Soderberg gave the Avalanche a healthy 4-1 lead.
Ian Cole made a high, shoulder hit on Mark Jankowski in the head that left Jankowski laid out on the ice for a minute as Sam Bennett took exception to the hit. Bennett took after Cole and paid him back with a flurry of fists. It was a side of Bennett that we don’t see very often, but I appreciate that someone was standing up against Cole’s hit that sent Jankowski down the tunnel.
Down 4-1 heading into the final period could have been the end of the discussion, but the Flames just don’t quit in tough situations. Surprisingly, Peters kept Smith in net after giving up 4 goals on 14 shots and we also saw the return of Mark Jankowski on the bench for the third period. With the home team still on a power play, Lindholm does it again and notches his ninth goal of the season after scoring only 16 goals during the entire season last year.
Sean Monahan closed the gap even more with another goal and the Flames were back in the game with a 4-3 score and plenty of time to spare. James Neal, the newest veteran player that was acquired during the off-season, was visibly excited after he buried a pass from Gaudreau to tie the game 4-4. Mark Giordano notched the go-ahead goal and Frolik got the insurance goal.
With over two minutes left in the game, Colorado pulled Varlamov but it wasn’t enough for an Avalanche win. Colorado scored on the power play, but the score remained in favour of the home team, 6-5.
For a team that’s sitting in 4th place in the Central Division, I thought Colorado would walk over the Flames and put out their fire after such a productive week. But it seemed that the Avalanche came to Calgary and assumed they wouldn’t have to put much effort into their play and be able to walk out with an easy win. But the Flames proved that they don’t quit, even on the losing side of a 4-1 game. If there’s time, they will fight back. And, in this case, they will win.
Sam Bennett, not that he’s regressing, doesn’t seem to be progressing. He’s hit a plateau and doesn’t seem to be developing at the rate I expected. But with the haymakers he threw at Ian Cole in the second period, I’m starting to reconsider his role on the Calgary Flames. The jury is still out on Bennett and we will revisit this in a few weeks.
Dillon Dube had more chances on net, but can’t seem to bury the puck. He’s still waiting on his first goal of the season. There’s no question that his effort and energy are some of the best on the team so far this season. He makes good plays and reads plays well. It’s only a matter of time for him to celebrate his first goal.
T.J. Brodie improved significantly during this game. Given the same situation, he made better decisions and he made important plays that helped the Flames take the win.
The Calgary Flames are back on the ice at the Saddledome on Saturday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks. They get a few days off next week before visiting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.