The Calgary Flames traveled to Brooklyn for the only time this season Sunday to face the Islanders to continue their six-game road swing and win their fourth game of five.
It didn't look too promising early on. Capitalizing on a T.J. Brodie defensive zone turnover, Islanders forward Casey Cizikas lunged at a puck close to Mike Smith and managed to poke it through the five-hole with one hand on his stick to make it a quick 1-0 Isles lead. Cizikas' 7th, unassisted, came just 3:08 into the first.
The Flames quickly lost the momentum after this and chased the Islanders around for much of the rest of the period. While they'd come out strong, outshooting the Islanders 5-0 before the goal, they quickly got into penalty trouble once faced with the deficit. Michael Frolik was nailed for interference a minute after the goal, while Michael Stone was called for hi-sticking past the midway mark of the period. (The Flames were given two powerplays themselves in this period, and proceeded to stand around and barely muster up any offence or momentum on either of them.)
Looking to spark his team, the Flames' pint-sized sparkplug Ryan Lomberg engaged in a fight with Islanders heavyweight Ross Johnston late in the period. Johnston has seven inches on Lomberg, and he also landed about seven times as many punches in the one-sided affair. Lomberg left the game after the fight for "precautionary measures" and did not return. He completed his night at the 17:33 mark of the first, the time of the fight, with 2:10 of total ice time.
The first period ended with the Isles up 1-0. Shots on goal in the first favoured New York 11-9.
Shots on Goal
New York Islanders: 11 - Calgary Flames: 9
The second period began in much the same way that the first did: with a weak Islander five-hole goal.
This time, it was Anthony Beauvillier who managed to sneak a shot through the wickets of Mike Smith. Receiving a pass in the high slot from super-rookie Mat Barzal, Beauvillier unleashed a weak wrister which found its way through Matt Stajan's screen and past Smith to double the lead. Beauvillier's 13th was assisted by Barzal and Nick Leddy at 2:59 of the second.
Cue Matthew Tkachuk.
The Flames' sophomore became a lightning rod of attention for the course of the rest of the game. He had already drawn one penalty (on Mat Barzal, for hooking at 19:08 of the first)... and then drew another in the second period... and then ANOTHER.
On that second penalty, a minor for holding on Jason Chimera, the Flames broke through. With one second remaining on the powerplay, Mark Jankowski fired a one-timer from in close under the pads of Jaroslav Halak to cut the lead to one goal. Jankowski's 9th goal of the season, and his first point in 12 games, was assisted by Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau at the 10:35 mark of the second.
The Flames nearly unraveled late in the period for the same reason they did against the Rangers two nights previous: thanks to a Sam Bennett offensive-zone penalty. Called for holding at 18:43, Bennett sat in the box for the rest of the second and watched as Mike Smith managed to keep the Flames in it.
Shots on goal in the second favoured Calgary 14-7.
Shots on Goal
New York Islanders: 7 - Calgary Flames: 14
After killing off the balance of Bennett's penalty, the Flames seemed energized and took it to the Islanders for the rest of the game. They dominated the home squad throughout the third period, vastly out-shooting them and out-chancing them at every turn.
And then, finally, after a long period of sustained attack, the Flames finally penetrated the Islanders' defenses. Picking up the puck off the boards, Michael Frolik fed a streaking Matthew Tkachuk in front of the net. Fresh off drawing three penalties, Tkachuk deflected the puck over Halak's shoulder and barely to the right of the left post to knot the score at 2. The 19th goal of the year for #19 was assisted by Frolik and Brett Kulak at 9:38.
A late Mikael Backlund delay of game penalty put the Islanders back on the attack at the 12:48 mark of the third. Tavares... Ladd... Barzal... Eberle... Lee... Nelson... all big names, neutralized by a fantastic penalty kill by the likes of Mark Jankowski and Matt Stajan. The Flames gained an enormous boost of momentum from this kill.
That momentum manifested itself into a late goal for the Flames. Once again, it was Matthew Tkachuk deflecting a puck past Jaroslav Halak to add 1 to the Flames' score. With just 65 seconds remaining on the clock, former Islander star defenseman Travis Hamonic fired the puck towards the goal, where Tkachuk tipped it past Halak, off the post, off Halak's leg, and barely over the goal line. Tkachuk's 20th goal of the season was assisted by Hamonic and Michael Frolik.
The Flames would hold on for the win; however, it appeared that they may have suffered a big loss in the dying seconds. Down 3-2, the Islanders entered the Flames' end in the last five seconds and fired the puck wide of Smith, who stretched to try to make the save and appeared to tweak something in his groin area in the process. Smith had to be helped off the ice. Any extended absence from him would be an enormous blow to the Flames.
Regardless, the Flames outshot the Isles 19-7 in the third en route to a convincing 3-2 win.
Shots on Goal
New York Islanders: 7 - Calgary Flames: 19
- Matthew Tkachuk
- Mark Jankowski
- Jaroslav Halak
- New York Islanders - 25
- Calgary Flames - 42
- With his secondary assist on Jankowski's goal, Johnny Gaudreau has passed Phil Kessel for second in league scoring with 66 points. He sits behind only Nikita Kucherov, who has 69.
- There are 63 18-goal scorers in the NHL. The Flames have four of them: Sean Monahan (27, 8th in the league); Micheal Ferland; Matthew Tkachuk (both 20); and Gaudreau (18). Only Tampa (5: Namestnikov; Stamkos; Point; Kucherov; Gourde) has more, while only Toronto (Matthews; van Riemsdyk; Kadri; Marleau) and Vegas (Haula; Marchessault; Karlsson; Neal) have as many.
- Sam Bennett's assist on Jankowski's goal was just his second point in his last 11 games. He now has 19 points in 56 games this season.
- Matthew Tkachuk sits a solid third in points this season among all 2016 draftees. He has 39, only five behind the Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews (44) for first. The Jets' Patrik Laine has 42 points, while Clayton Keller (Arizona, 7th OA) has 38, Alex DeBrincat (Chicago, 2nd-rounder) has 35, and Jesper Bratt (New Jersey, 6th-rounder) has 31.
- If Mike Smith is indeed injured for any significant amount of time, expect to see Mason McDonald up starting in the AHL for the first time consistently in his career. Jon Gillies will likely be recalled as David Rittich's backup, and with Tyler Parsons injured, McDonald may get the call for Stockton.
The Flames travel to the TD Garden to face the red-hot Bruins on Tuesday at 5:00 MT. Led by stars in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, and Tuukka Rask, the Bruins will be a tough test for the best road team in the NHL.
13 Gaudreau - 23 Monahan - 79 Ferland
19 Tkachuk - 11 Backlund - 67 Frolik
93 Bennett - 77 Jankowski - 21 Hathaway
56 Lomberg - 18 Stajan - 20 Lazar
5 Giordano - 27 Hamilton
7 Brodie - 24 Hamonic
61 Kulak - 26 Stone
Scratches: 44 Bartkowski; 46 Hrivik / Injured: 10 Versteeg; 36 Brouwer
Michael Gould is a guest contributor to Fireside Chat who has been covering the Flames on his own blog - Follow The Flames since 2015.