The puck dropped, and play commenced on Thursday night. 15 seconds and two giveaways later, it was apparent that fans were in store for a gloves-down, heavy-assault affair between the Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils.
Amid a scourge of speculation and a full house of scouts watching the game – 15 teams in total took in the affair in person, the Flames managed to out-box the Devils to the tune of a 5-3 victory. Connor Zary, Andrew Mangiapane, and Noah Hanifin led the offence with two points apiece, and Jacob Markstrom once again came up big with a 37 save, .925 save percentage performance.
New Jersey forward Ondrej Palat opened the scoring less than five minutes in with a quick one-timer off a Jesper Bratt two-on-one feed. 1-0 New Jersey.
Flames captain Mikael Backlund evened the score minutes later off a feed from winger Andrew Mangiapane following a brief boards battle behind the Devils’ net. 1-1.
The Flames seized a 2-1 lead in the second period off a trickle-through shot from Nazem Kadri. Rookie forward Connor Zary pounced on the loose puck for an empty net tap-in. This game wasn’t going as the bettors who play at Alberta casinos online expected.
Veteran center Kevin Rooney put the Flames up 3-1 early in the third period after a net-front scramble led to the 30-year-old finding the puck in the danger zone. The goal was Rooney’s first NHL marker since Dec. 7, 2021, when he played for the New York Rangers.
The Devils made a game of it 1:07 later when Nico Hischier sprung out on a shorthanded breakaway and rifled it over goaltender Jacob Markstrom’s glove to put the score at 3-2. Newcomer Andrei Kuzmenko coughed the puck up at the blue line to lead to the Devils break.
Kuzmenko made up for his mistake a little under five minutes later by picking up a Noah Hanifin rebound and executing a 360-degree maneuver to find his way past Devils goaltender Vitek Vanacek. 4-2 Flames. The goal was the second for Kuzmenko in two games with his new team.
Ondrej Palat notched his second of the game with a little over five minutes remaining in regulation after tipping a Colin Miller wrist shot from the point. With the game steadily approaching the final buzzer, the score was brought within one.
The Flames thought they had sealed the game with 2:17 remaining on the clock in a sequence; well, you’re just going to have to see to believe.
Chaos ensues in New Jersey! pic.twitter.com/a5jmtuScDt
— Robert Munnich (@RingOfFireCGY) February 9, 2024
Despite the drama of the controversial no-goal sequence, Andrew Mangiapane managed to first hit the post – and then force a turnover to seize an empty net opportunity and seal the game at 5-3.
The Calgary Flames now head to New York for an 11:00 a.m. matinee game against the Islanders on Saturday.