So here we are, 1/3 of the way through our annual trek across the American west/mid-west complete with bizarre game times and the occasional appearance from C-Mac. In my last post, I made a point of saying that the game in Detroit on Friday would be difficult and might not be pretty; well it was difficult, Kiprusoff faced fourty shots in the game and the Flames were largely outplayed, and it wasn't pretty, apart from a few lucky bounces, some sub-par goaltending from Osgood, and the end result: a 3-0 shutout win for the Flames in one of the most notoriously unfriendly buildings in the NHL.
The Flames were outshot 15-6 and 17-5 in the first and second periods and, although they were faced with the task of killing off six Detroit powerplays as the refs attempted to even the proverbial score, were the beneficiaries of an early whistle, a questionable goaltender interference no-goal, and some timely defensive ineptitude from Pavel Datsyuk. They got it together in the third period and managed to hold the Wings to only eight shots, some of which were very good quality scoring chances, after taking the 3-0 lead early on a nice shot by Jokinen that went top-shelf on Osgood.
At one point in the final frame, Todd Bertuzzi had a scoring chance, a relatively tame but hard shot from the faceoff circle, and I screamed at the TV: "NO, YOU'RE NOT SCORING!!!" and it seemed to work. The Wings were shut out in back-to-back games at home for the first time since the 70s, and given that they are depleted by injuries, deserved a better fate. The final result is flattering for the Flames, but they are not yet the elite level team that a 3-0 road win over the Red Wings might imply that they are.
Stop Two: Columbus
Nationwide Arena is another hard-luck building for the Flames, who lost their last outing there earlier in the season by a score of 2-1. Curtis McElhinney was given the start after Kiprusoff's magnificent fourty-save performance the night before, and the Flames got off to a surprisingly good start, outshooting the Jackets 10-5 in the opening frame. After the Flames took the lead on a goal by Jokinen five and a half minutes into the second, things swiftly turned south for the visitors. They went over twelve minutes without a shot in the middle frame and the Blue Jackets took the lead on three unanswered goals by Rick Nash, Marc Methot, and Jared Boll, two of which were assisted by former Flame Kristian Huselius. I think I've already mentioned how much I loved watching him play when he was a Flame; I was pretty heartbroken when he signed with the Jackets, and games like this don't do much to ease the pain.
After a lacklustre start to the third, I was ready to write this game off on the basis of fatigue and a couple bad goals allowed by C-Mac, but that changed with under ten minutes remaining in the final stanza. After a few good forechecking shifts, Dustin Boyd converted a swell pass from Jokinen (who now has three goals and nine assists in his last eleven games) to cut Columbus' lead in half. As Duncan from Hit The Post points out, he has not only been contributing offensively, but he has been doing so at important times in the game. Joker's not exactly Mr. Clutch, but his timely offense of late sure does help. Good on 'ya, Pumpkin Head. Just over a minute later, Nigel Dawes swatted home what seems to be a now patented behind-the-net feed from David Moss for his third goal in as many games to send the game into overtime.
The Flames would go on to outshoot the Jackets 4-3 in OT, fueled by their late-period comeback, but to no avail. The shootout wasn't exactly a goaltending battle, as both 'tenders surrendered goals on the first two shots they faced, followed by saves on Iginla and Tyutin respectively. In the fourth round, former Flame Anton Stralman missed, running into McElhinney in the process (Fun fact: I was in the process of making a white chocolate mocha for a customer at work and simultaneously rambling on about Stralman's stats with CBJ as he was about to shoot when I was unceremoniously rushed by said customer), and Lundmark sealed the deal for the Flames with his first career NHL shootout goal.
The Flames enter the second third of their six-game roadie tomorrow (6PM, Sportsnet) against the red-hot Predators in Nashville. The Preds are 9-4 at home, recording impressive wins against the Wings, Devils, Sharks, and Blackhawks. The fact that they refer to themselves as "Smashville" on the team website makes me want the Flames to beat them even more. Sarich and Bourque are still out with undisclosed injuries for the Flames, who have recalled Staffan Kronwall from Abbotsford. I've also heard through the grapevine that Reggie has been playing with somewhat of a bad elbow. The Preds are healthy as far as I can tell. The Flames could tie a franchise record for points in ten straight games if they record at least a point tomorrow against Nashville; they swept the season series with the Preds 4-0 last season.
This game is being called a "measuring stick" game for the Preds, as they look to establish themselves as a legitimate playoff contender in the West. Let's make it difficult for them.
Go Flames Go.