The Flames pushed their winning streak to a season-high five games with a shootout victory over the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Center in what was another snooze-fest for the most part, despite the fact the the Flames twice came back from one-goal deficits after dominating the play early on.
The first period began with some excellent chances for the Flames right off the hop, leading the Predators 8-1 in scoring chances after enjoying two early powerplays. The barrage would prove fruitless, however, thanks to several big stops from Pekka Rinne, which would prove crucial in what would happen next, as Martin Erat would score shortly thereafter to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. Nashville would dominate the remainder of the opening frame, generating some chances on two powerplays of their own, but couldn’t beat Kipper for a second time, and the period would end with the Flames trailing by one.
The second period saw some back-and-forth action with neither club really dominating as penalties again worked to impeded the flow of things and shift "momentum," so to speak. Shots on goal were even at six per side with the Flames owning the slight edge in chances.
Nashville would get a powerplay that would carry over into the final frame when Miikka Kiprusoff made a bizarre play to impede Colin Wilson behind the Flames net after some extended pressure by the Preds, but nothing would come of it. The visitors would strike shortly after killing off the penalty, when Matt Stajan beat Rinne with a weak one to tie things up at one.
The home side would get it back quickly, however, as Patric Hornqvist would beat Kipper with Olli Jokinen off for tripping. In a strange case of a player being in the right place at the right time, Cory Sarich received an Alex Tanguay pass in the slot and put home his second of the season to square the affair at twos. The Flames would fail to convert on a powerplay opportunity with three and a half minutes left, sending the game to overtime, where they would have the better chances, outshooting the Preds 4-1. The extra frame would solve nothing, however, and the game would head to a shootout.
After Rene Bourque scored on Calgary’s first attempt both Tanguay and Jokinen were stopped by Rinne and Kiprusoff was up to the task, saving all three Nashville attempts for the Flames’ league-leading seventh shootout victory this season.
Stajan had a decent game tonight, finishing tied for the team lead with three shots on goal and +2 in scoring chances at EV. He still managed to finish in the red in Corsi, however, despite the fact that both Glencross and Hagman managed to keep their heads above water, although the latter appeared in a very limited role in this game, playing just under nine minutes in total alongside Mikael Backlund, who I probably noticed only once or twice tonight. On the back end, Adam Pardy bounced back after being somewhat at fault on Nashville’s first goal and taking an early penalty, making some smart defensive plays later in the game, although he still finished underwater in both possession and chances. I only shouted at Pardy’s defence partner Anton Babchuk once in this game when he failed to get a good shot off on a powerplay opportunity, which has to be a good sign, as the Ukrainian also managed stay on the good side of things–likely aided by his 4:01 of PP time.
This was another game where the Flames didn't play especially well, but weren't terrible either, and managed to get away with the win thanks to a little bit of puck luck, which seems to be the way things have been going for them recently. The fact that they haven't been dominating games and still winning likely means that they're in store for something of a regression to the norm in the near future, especially since they haven't exactly been taking on any legitimate heavyweights aside from Vancouver in recent games. The Flames' upcoming schedule includes some teams that are likely better than their current position in the standings would suggest in the Kings and the Blackhawks, and that could present a challenge for a team that hasn't exactly been earning their keep for sixty minutes a night.
The club is off tomorrow before traveling to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers for the only time this season, a team that has had some unexpected success thus far, but whether or not they are for real is still up or debate.
by Hayley Mutch