The Calgary Flames have been criticized for not playing complete 60 minute games. They didn’t play one on Thursday night when they hosted the New Jersey Devils, but playing a rock-solid final 40 minutes was all that was required. The Flames beat the Devils 5-2 with a very solid, if incomplete, effort.

The Rundown

Neither team was particularly great in the first 20 minutes of this hockey game. Both teams turned the puck over quite a bit and couldn’t really execute their passing. The Flames had a power play and couldn’t do much and a minute after the penalty expired, the Devils managed to cash in. Taylor Hall sprang Jack Hughes with a dandy neutral zone pass and Hughes split the Flames’ top defensive pairing (Travis Hamonic and Mark Giordano) and deked out David Rittich to make it 1-0 Devils.

Shots were 9-9 and scoring chances 5-5 in the opening period.

The Flames’ clunky play continued into the first few minutes of the second period (and then improved). Derek Ryan tied the game up 3:02 into the period off a nice pass from Michael Stone, splitting the D and then launching a back-hand shot over Mackenzie Blackwood. That made it 1-1.

But a couple minutes later the Devils recaptured the lead off some flat-footed Flames play off a neutral zone face-off. That allowed Hughes to find Nikita Gusev for a tap-in on a two-on-one rush to make it 2-1.

A couple penalties led to some four on four play and the Flames cashed in. Noah Hanifin grabbed an errant pass and went for a skate behind New Jersey’s net. He waited for an opening and found Sean Monahan at the front of the net for a chip shot that tied the game at 2-2.

Later in the period, the Flames’ power play finally cashed in on a weird play. Mikael Backlund attempted to feed the puck to Milan Lucic near the slot. Devils defender Andy Greene attempted to redirect the puck away… but he instead caused the puck to beat Blackwood five-hole to give the Flames a 3-2 lead.

Late in the period, the Flames scored another power play marker. With many, many bodies in front, Hanifin’s point shot found a way through and into the Devils net to give the home side a 4-2 edge heading into the intermission.

Shots were 17-3 Flames and scoring chances 13-3 Flames.

The Flames largely played keep-away in the third period, but Johnny Gaudreau was sprung on a partial breakaway by Sean Monahan and back-handed the puck over Blackwood to make it 5-2.

Shots were 12-10 Flames and scoring chances 9-5 Flames in the third period.

Why the Flames Won

The Flames were the better team for the final 35 minutes of this game. For the first 25 minutes, they were fine and the game was basically a coin-toss. But after going down 2-1, the Flames flipped a switch. They won puck battles. They made smart plays. They out-worked and out-hustled the Devils for the final stretch and made life pretty easy on themselves.

It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was one of their better ones in awhile.

Red Warrior

Hanifin had a goal and two primary assists in the second period.

The Turning Point

Backlund’s goal was a weird one, but it gave the Flames their first lead of the game (and first in-game lead since a six minute span in Washington). The Devils seemed to deflate and the Flames got some energy, and the game wasn’t close from that point on.

The Numbers

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Percentage stats are 5v5.

Ryan 72.0 91.7 1.720
Bennett 68.4 91.7 1.145
Jankowski 66.7 37.5 -0.080
Rieder 66.7 37.5 0.450
Quine 61.9 91.7 0.325
Lucic 60.0 33.3 0.300
Hamonic 59.3 55.6 2.650
Backlund 58.6 37.5 1.475
Andersson 58.3 76.9 1.150
Giordano 57.1 55.7 0.700
Hanifin 56.3 71.4 2.650
Mangiapane 54.2 37.5 0.450
Tkachuk 54.2 37.5 0.400
Brodie 52.2 53.9 0.725
Stone 45.0 50.0 0.750
Lindholm 38.1 71.4 0.545
Gaudreau 35.0 62.5 1.675
Monahan 33.3 62.5 1.195
Rittich 0.600

This and That

Sixteen of the Flames 18 skaters registered shots in this game. Only Mark Jankowski and Andrew Mangiapane failed to hit the net.

With the victory, Rittich is tied for the league lead in wins by a goaltender. He’s also played 98 more minutes than any other goalie.

Up Next

The Flames (10-7-2) practice tomorrow. They host the defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues, on Saturday night in the late game of Hockey Night in Canada.

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