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Flames Down Devils 5-4 In The Shootout

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New Jersey couldn’t clean up their defensive act on Sunday, and the Calgary Flames made them pay for it.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Calgary Flames
Matt Tkachuk buries the game-winner over the shoulder of Keith Kinkaid in the third round of the shootout.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

First Period: The Devils’offense struck quickly to open the game. Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall came in on Calgary goalie (And best player so far this year) Mike Smith on a 2-on-1. Hischier’s shot was saved, but Hall put back the rebound to give the Devils a 1-0 lead at 1:34 of the first. That’s a nice change from their previous game in Edmonton, where New Jersey failed to lead at any point in the contest. But a minute and a half later, Miles Wood broke the rules by hooking Calgary’s Michael Frolik. To the box he went. That’s a bit of a momentum killer. Fortunately, the Flames’ power play could only manage a shot, and Jesper Bratt skated in from the left-side boards and let a clapper go, which Mike Smith turned away. Penalty over.

Back from a commercial break and the Devils continue to work well down low. Pavel Zacha, Jimmy Hayes, and Brian Boyle created some havoc, and a scoring opportunity in front of Smith. Calgary is having trouble generating a clean break-out from their own end. Only minutes later, Taylor Hall crumpled to the ice after he and Sean Monahan ran into each other in the New Jersey end. Monahan’s stick came up a bit, but no call. Hall headed for the bench slowly, and then down the runway to the locker room. He returned pretty quickly, and was taking his next shift moments later.

At 10:51 of the first, Calgary’s Brett Kulak took a holding penalty, 13 seconds later the Flames tied the game at 1-1 as New Jersey’s defense broke down, allowing Michael Frolik to score the first shorthanded goal of the year against the Devils. Back in the offensive zone now the Devils work with 1:20 left to the power play. A minute passed rather lazily, and then Hischier again was banging on the door as the Devils had a good chance to break the tie, but the scramble in front went Calgary’s way. Hischier’s looked strong on the puck here early.

6:45 to go, and Calgary again jumped on a sloppy New Jersey defense. Michael Ferland ended up with a not-so-clear-cut breakaway, but was awarded a penalty shot anyway after being dragged down. Ferland tried to go backhand-forehand on Keith Kinkaid, but the Devils goaltender made his third save of the night to keep the game tied. Whew.

The Flames are pushing, and Michael Frolik is back at it. He took a cross-ice pass from Mikael Backlund and one-timed it on net, only to be denied by the glove of Kinkaid. That’s a New Jersey Million Dollar Replay if I’ve ever seen one.

About five minutes to go in the opening frame, and Calgary is getting the better of play. They’re controlling the action and holding the Devils in their own end. Damon Severson interfered with Troy Brouwer behind the net, and he went to the box. Calgary back to the power play. 51 seconds later, Sam Bennett shoved Mirco Mueller to the ice, and he went to the box for interference. So they’ll skate 4-on-4 for 1:09. Calgary looked pretty sloppy on the 4-on-4, and they allowed a couple Devils alone in front of Mike Smith, another scoring chance turned away by the former Arizona Coyote.

With Severson out of the box and New Jersey on the man-advantage, the defense slipped up again. Sam Bennett hit the ice after his penalty ended, was hit with a clean breakout pass, and managed to get a couple shots off on another Calgary breakaway. Both turned away by Kinkaid

End of the first. Game tied at 1. New Jersey ahead in shots 16-9.

Second Period: John Hynes started Henrique, Wood, and Stafford up front, same as the first. About 45 seconds into the first, here comes another Flames 2-on-1, but another great Kinkaid save held things down. He was locked in. Just under two minutes into the period, and remember Nico Hischier? Yeah, he came up the left-side boards, shot a high wrist shot that rebounded off Smith’s left shoulder, and Ben Lovejoy buried the second chance. 2-1 New Jersey on Hischier’s second assist. That’s Lovejoy’s first goal in almost a calendar year.

Jesper Bratt headed off to the penalty box for tripping Sean Monahan just over five minutes into the period. So the Flames’ thus far 0-for-2 power play got another crack at it. With about 20 seconds left on the man advantage the Flames offense turned it on, and suddenly there were shots coming from everywhere. Keith Kinkaid stood tall. Still 2-1 with about eight minutes gone in the second.

With just under nine minutes left in the period, the Flames, who were sustaining pressure in the New Jersey end, buried a goal to draw even. Michael Stone ripped a one-timer from the point which found it’s way through some bodies and over Kinkaid’s shoulder, in the net. 2-2 as Calgary starts to outwork New Jersey again half way through the period. Kinkaid is forced to make one more stop before a commercial break. Hopefully the Devils get a chance to find their footing during the break.

New Jersey looked pretty bad in their own end here. With four Devils on the right side of the ice, Sean Monahan would break the tie, giving Calgary a lead with 13:22 to go. But the roller coaster’s not over yet. The very next shift, this season’s great story, Brian Gibbons scored off a Mike Smith turnover, and just like that the game is back even. That’s goals ten seconds apart, and the most important one thus far as New Jersey is coming undone a bit in the period. But the play is right back to the New Jersey zone thereafter, as the Flames seriously picked up the pace, and the Devils just don’t seem to have a sustained answer for it.

It’s a 3-on-2 for the Devils. Hischier fed Taylor Hall, who snapped a shot high glove-side on Mike Smith. He got a piece of the puck which then fell into the crease, Mark Giordano swatted it away to save the fourth goal against Smith as the Devils crashed the net. With just under three minutes to go the Devils were taking back some of the momentum. They had the Flames trapped in their own end for a long shift. But nothing very eventful came of it aside from some tired Calgary Flames.

So headed into the second intermission it was 3-3 thanks to some timely scoring.

Third Period: Henrique-Stafford-Wood and Greene-Mueller are the five Devils on the ice to open the third. They’re up against Backlund-Tkachuk-Frolik, with Giordano and Dougie Hamilton on the back-end. Like the opening minutes of both the first and second, it’s the Devils with more jump.

Under three minutes in, not much action yet, aside from a helmet-less Jimmy Hayes jawing with Kris Versteeg.

Just as I say that, Mike Smith stops Ben Lovejoy’s shot from the point, then he robs Nico Hischier of an easy rebound goal with a terrific save. I’d bet the Flames are glad they picked up the veteran netminder this offseason. Now with six minutes gone the Flames are buzzing again. They’ve got the Devils hemmed into their own end. Calgary appears to be the faster team each time the play hits the neutral zone, and as a result they’re getting more offensive zone-time.

Michael Ferland, who was bested earlier by Kinkaid on the penalty shot, got his revenge, burying the go-ahead goal on a slick zone entry about seven minutes into the third. 4-3 Flames. As in the previous two periods, the Flames are starting to get the better of play as time goes on. It’s going to be an up-hill battle to tie this one.

John Hynes does some line switching. It’s Coleman, Noesen, and Boyle on the ice with just under 11 gone in the period. A little under 9 minutes to go, and the captain, Andy Greene, buried a shot from the left side which somehow squeaked in under Mike Smith. We’re tied at 4.

Will Butcher made a bad pass up the middle of the neutral zone which was picked off by Michael Frolik. Frolik gained the zone, took a wrister, but was denied. Only seconds later, it’s Miles Wood hitting the jets and getting past all the home team players. Matt Bartkowski dragged him down from behind, and the refs call for a penalty shot. Here comes Wood, coming in slowly, he goes to the backhand, the puck rolls on his blade, and he misses the net high. Still a tie game.

About five minutes to go, and the puck is bouncing everywhere in front of the Devils net. Calgary is buzzing again. The ever exciting Johnny Guadreau rushes to a wide angle and snaps a shot on net, which Kinkaid smothers for a whistle.

They’re doing the wave in the stands as Calgary hems the Devils in their own end again. There’s a couple close calls, but Kinkaid stands tall again. What a game by each of these goalies.

With under a minute to go it’s the two top lines out there against one another. The Devils ice the puck with 42 seconds left. It’s Monahan and Hischier on the draw to the left of Keith Kinkaid. Calgary sends it in deep, but Ben Lovejoy puts a little too much on a clearing attempt. Another icing. No damage done though, we’re going to overtime in Calgary.

Overtime: Cue the operatic music. The Devils start with Hischier, Hall, and Greene against Monahan, Gaudreau, and TJ Brodie. There’s a second faceoff in the netrual zone, and Backlund wins it for Calgary. But they ice it shortly thereafter, and the faceoff will come to the left of Mike Smith. It’s Hall-Hischier-Severson now in the Calgary end. It’s a library in the Saddledome. Hischier with a wrap-around saved by Smith, and you can hear the collective exhale in the building. TJ Brodie walked in, took a shot, slapped at a rebound, but no go. Now it’s Monahan, he hands it off to Gaudreau, Gaudreau skates around the zone, then dumps it off to Hamilton in the neutral zone. Hamilton gains the line, gives to Versteeg, he’s chased by Henrique, and they dump it all the way down ice to Smith. With a minute left it’s Frolik missing a shot on a quick breakaway. The Devils regain. Jesper Bratt to Hall on the doorstep. No go. 2-on-1 with 10 seconds to go. An exhausted Taylor Hall hits the breaks in the left faceoff circle. He fires the puck and misses over the net. Wow. That picked up. To the shootout we go.

Shootout: Taylor Hall is up first. Smith comes way out. And he makes a left pad save on Hall’s backhand attempt. Sean Monahan is up for Calgary. He comes in slowly, and picks it top-cheese. 1-0 Calgary in the shootout. Now it’s Jesper Bratt. He goes 5-hole, and finds nothing. So it’s Kris Versteeg to win it. He tries to go backhand-forehand, but gets turned away. So here comes Drew Stafford with the game on his stick. He gets Smith to go down, and lifts the backhand to tie it at 1. Matt Tkachuk can win it right here. He comes in quickly, pulls Kinkaid to the left, and wrists the puck high to the right and in the net. That’s game.

The Game Stats:

The Opposition Opinion:

What Went Wrong: The problems in Calgary were much the same as those in Edmonton. The Devils need to be better in their own end. They’re a young team, yes. They’re gonna have to deal with growing pains, yes. They are doing a lot of other good things, yes. But it wasn’t enough tonight, it wasn’t enough in Edmonton, and it won’t be enough in the future. Too many Calgary players got loose behind the defense in this one. Too many guys got a solo crack at Keith Kinkaid, who played a whale of a game. Too many times was there a turnover which led to a quick break for the Flames (A team who feasts off of those). New Jersey was pinned down in their own end too often tonight. They gave way too many opportunities to players like Ferland, Monahan, Gaudreau, and Frolik. The defense was their downfall again tonight. Will Butcher had a brutal turnover and was lucky he had his defensive partner close to keep Michael Frolik at bay.

What Went Right: New Jersey started periods strong. They were tough going to the net for rebounds and dirty goals. Keith Kinkaid was tough to beat. He kept New Jersey in the game a lot of the time. The line of Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, and Jesper Bratt had lots of jump tonight, and they generated lots of chances. The Devils didn’t get blown away in the faceoff circle tonight. Salvaging the one point tonight was good, it helped maintain first in the pretty tight Metropolitan Division. Aside from that, there was a lot to be improved upon tonight.

Your Take: What were your thoughts on the game? Do you have any hope that New Jersey can turn their defensive struggles around? Who was the best player for New Jersey tonight? Let’s hear your opinions.

Thank you for keeping up with the Devils with us, either here or on Twitter @AATJerseyBlog. New Jersey will play again on Tuesday at the Prudential Center against the St. Louis Blues at 7:00 PM. Tonight was a tough loss to swallow, but there’s a lot of hockey left to be played. Thanks for reading, sleep well, and have a great week.