After closing out the first half of the season with three straight road losses, the Calgary Flames returned to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday night hoping for a fresh start. They skated away with a hard-fought 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings, but it was hardly the consistent effort that they were hoping for.
“In the first period, our legs were still on the plane from our California trip,” said head coach Bob Hartley. “But second period it seemed that we got more life, more jump, and in the third period we really fore-checked well, we were dominant in their zone and we created turnovers and that’s how we got this game.”
The Flames were bombarded with shots from the Red Wings through the first 40 minutes, being out-shot 15-6 in the first period and 12-5 in the second period (and 27-11 heading into the third). However, the club began to carry the play in the second and it took a Red Wings power-play goal late in the period to keep things evened up.
But the third period was all Calgary on the score-sheet.
“I felt that in the last ten minutes of the second period, we started to have some bite to our game, we started to have some jump,” said Hartley. “And right from the get-go in the third period, right on the first fore-check I saw three guys going on a mission, creating some good things.”
Lee Stempniak put the Flames up five minutes into the third on a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with linemates Matt Stajan and Curtis Glencross. Four minutes later, Glencross gathered a loose puck just inside the Detroit blueline and roofed it home for his ninth of the year, giving the Flames some insurance. In Glencross’ return to the line-up after missing a pair of games with an upper-body injury, his line had six points and were a combined plus-9.
“Tonight it wasn’t a really Xs and Os adjustment, I think a lot of it was just playing harder,” said Stempniak, on the Flames’ approach to the third period. “We were lucky to be in the game. Kip made some great saves and really gave us a chance, and we just knew that it was a huge game for us and we had to play with more desperation and we did.”
Alex Tanguay, Jay Bouwmeester and Blake Comeau also scored for the Flames. The victory is Calgary’s fifth straight at home and, oddly, the third straight home game where the Flames took the lead after being tied heading into the third period. Following the game, Flames defender Jay Bouwmeester mused on the team’s luck in the final frame.
“We’ve probably had too many that have gone the other way, that we’ve let get away,” said Bouwmeester. “But this is a huge game. We had a chance, Kip gave us a chance for the first two periods, and we played a lot better in the third. We’ve got to figure out how to play a whole game like that.”
Third period shots were even, but Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff made 36 saves for the win while Detroit’s Jonas Gustavsson (subbing for a flu-ridden Jimmy Howard) allowed five goals on just 22 shots for the loss.