The Flames entered their Saturday evening tilt against the Colorado Avalanche looking to get back on track. Having lost two straight, including blowing a lead the previous night against Dallas, they turned to rookie goalie David Rittich to lead them to a possible victory against an Avs team they'd swept in the season series in 2016-17.
Early on, the Flames got to work. Hockey Night in Canada After Hours guest Micheal Ferland got a great chance to open the scoring in the first minute, as Sean Monahan sprung him with Johnny Gaudreau on a 2-on-1. Gaudreau fed him with a terrific pass, and Ferland unloaded a one-time shot which plunked right off the crossbar. No goal. The rebound came right out to Gaudreau, whose shot was stopped... and a failed clearing attempt right after went right to Mark Giordano, who too was stopped by Jonathan Bernier.
Entering this contest with a 5-1 record in the AHL, David Rittich was no stranger to winning. He was, however, a stranger to facing shots from NHL stars like Gabriel Landeskog. He got his first test off the stick of #92 just under 6 minutes in, as the Avs' captain attempted to catch the Flames changing. He entered the zone on the left wing and fired a hard slapper aimed right at the top corner, blocker-side... but Rittich stuck out his arm and turned it aside.
Ferland got another great chance in the slot later on in the period. Much like the play in Dallas where Johnny Gaudreau picked Dan Hamhuis' pocket en route to a goal, Gaudreau stole the puck from right in front of Tyson Barrie off an errant pass by Andrei Mironov, and quickly fed the puck to the trailer, Ferland, who once again one-timed the puck... this time, missing the net by about an inch. Twelve minutes remained in the period.
Fast-forward to just over three minutes left in the period. The Flames are on their second powerplay of the stanza, with Gabriel Landeskog off for a nasty crosscheck to the face of Matthew Tkachuk. Johnny Gaudreau finds Micheal Ferland wide open in front of the net for yet another one timer, and Ferland, who is no more than four feet away from Bernier, fires a shot maybe a foot over the net. Yikes.
Later on in the powerplay, Ferland's mistake was forgotten, as it was Dougie Hamilton who roofed one past Bernier to make it a 1-0 Flames lead. Off a scrum down low on the right side, Matthew Tkachuk emerged with the puck and fed one out front through traffic right onto the stick of #27, who unleashed a quick shot over the shoulder of Bernier and bar-down to make it 1-0. Hamilton's third of the season was assisted by Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund, on the powerplay, at 17:23 of the first. (If there was a third assist, Jaromir Jagr would've gotten it.)
Shots on goal in the first period favoured Calgary 8-7.
Shots on Goal
Colorado Avalanche: 7 - Calgary Flames: 8
Look, Jaromir Jagr is 45. He's not the fastest player in the game. And so it's understandable when he takes the odd hooking penalty or tripping penalty -- he sometimes just can't catch up to certain players. It just ensures that the penalty-killing units are kept on their toes.
Boy, did they have to be, early on in the second period.
Jagr took a hooking penalty at 2:03 of the period, and the Avalanche went to work. Samuel Girard walks in from the point and gets off a good shot... turned aside by Rittich. Alex Kerfoot feeds Tyson Barrie, who wrists one through traffic... deftly stopped by Rittich. Shots were blocked, too. It was a great penalty kill for the Flames, and Jagr stepped out of the box at 4:03.
Micheal Ferland got another chance to score just after the penalty expired. The Flames were buzzing around the net, and Johnny Gaudreau was being elusive, as always, with the puck. He spun off a couple of checks and fed the puck, from the right side, to Ferland in front of the net. #79 tipped the puck on goal, and it nearly caught Bernier going the wrong way... but he still managed to keep it out.
The Flames took another penalty at 6:17, with Dougie Hamilton going off for tripping, sending the Avs to their second consecutive powerplay. On it, David Rittich made possibly the best save of his NHL career thus far. Nathan MacKinnon took the initial shot from the high left side, and Rittich kicked out the rebound right to Alex Kerfoot on the right side. Kerfoot elevated the puck high towards the net, but Rittich sprawled across his crease to keep it out.
After the Flames killed that penalty, they got another chance to increase their lead. This time, it was Sean Monahan who one-timed a Johnny Gaudreau pass in the slot, and once again, it beat Bernier... and rang off the crossbar.
Finally, on their third powerplay of the period (Matt Bartkowski being the culprit this time, for delay of game), the Avs converted. Off a rebound, Mikko Rantanen fired a hard shot from the left circle past the glove of Rittich and in, for Rittich's second career goal against. Rantanen's 7th goal of the season was assisted by MacKinnon at 14:32 of the second.
However, the Flames responded before the period ended. Just barely, though. Off an Avalanche turnover in their own zone, Sean Monahan quickly fed Micheal Ferland streaking to the net on the right side, and from in close, the Flames' winger made no mistake, threading the needle and placing the shot off the crossbar and in. Ferland's 10th of the season was assisted by Monahan with just 51 seconds remaining in the period.
Oh, and they weren't done. Seconds later, off another Avalanche turnover in their own zone, Mikael Backlund fired home a rebound from a long-range shot from the right point past Jonathan Bernier. This one came with just 28.6 seconds left in the second. Backlund's 6th goal of the season was assisted by Travis Hamonic and Michael Frolik.
What a collapse. Shots in the second favoured the Avalanche by a count of 12-7.
Shots on Goal
Colorado Avalanche: 12 - Calgary Flames: 7
The Flames kept trying to add to their lead early on in the third. On a powerplay from a Nathan MacKinnon penalty in the opening minutes, Jaromir Jagr received a great pass in the slot and fired a hard wrister at the net, which missed the right post by about five centimetres.
Play continued, and Jagr kept circling around the net, waiting for the puck to come to him. It finally did off a Matthew Tkachuk rebound, and he fired it towards the net... but Jonathan Bernier sprawled over to keep it out.
After the Avs killed that penalty, they started to press for another goal to get them back in it. Ex-Flame Blake Comeau entered the zone on the left side around four minutes in and dropped the puck back to Nikita Zadorov, whose cannon of a shot was no match for David Rittich's reflexes as he kept it out with his pad.
The Avs nearly threw it all away, though, nearing the six-minute mark of the period. Once again, they turned the puck over in their own zone, right to Michael Frolik, who let go a wrister towards Bernier which he had to be quick to turn aside.
Colorado got one of their best chances of the night with just over six minutes left in the period. Experiencing a bounceback year, it was Carl Soderberg who was sent in all alone on Rittich. He made a move and tried to go five-hole on the backhand through Rittich, but was denied by a quick pad squeeze.
Off a Flames turnover in their own zone, the Avs cut the lead to one. Once again, it was Nikita Zadorov firing a bullet from the point, and this one beat David Rittich through a screen to make it 3-2. Zadorov's 2nd goal of the season was assisted by Mark Barberio at 17:06 of the third.
That was as close as the Avalanche would get, however. Even with the goalie pulled, they failed to muster much offense, and the Flames held on for a 3-2 win.
Shots on goal in the third were 13-7 for Calgary.
Shots on Goal
Colorado Avalanche: 7 - Calgary Flames: 13
- David Rittich
- Micheal Ferland
- Dougie Hamilton
- Colorado Avalanche - 26
- Calgary Flames - 28
- What a start for David Rittich. One game, one win. That's how you become a team's backup goalie -- you win when you play. If he keeps up like this, we might not see Eddie Lack in Flames silks again, barring any sort of injury string. Even then, Jon Gillies might get the call first.
- Dougie Hamilton was all over the offensive zone tonight, mustering 7 of the Flames' 28 shots.
- Mark Giordano was the Flames' workhorse tonight, playing nearly 29 minutes. Freddie Hamilton played exactly 7.
- Johnny Gaudreau probably should've had six assists tonight, but ended up with a goose-egg. He's still second in scoring with 34 points, tied with Nikita Kucherov and two back of Steven Stamkos.
The Flames have two days off before returning home on Tuesday to face Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puck drop for that one is at 7:00 PM MT on Sportsnet West.
Gaudreau - Monahan - Ferland
Tkachuk - Backlund - Frolik
Bennett - Jankowski - Jagr
Stajan - F. Hamilton - Brouwer
Giordano - D. Hamilton
Brodie - Hamonic
Bartkowski - Stone
Michael Gould is a guest contributor to Fireside Chat who has been covering the Flames on his own blog - Follow The Flames since 2015.