The New Jersey Devils have one of the best goalies of the last decade on their roster in Martin Brodeur, but it was the Calgary Flames goalie who stole the show on Monday night, spoiling the Devils’ hopes of sneaking into the post-season.
With 31 saves on the night, Karri Ramo earned his second shutout of the season, blanking the Devils 1-0.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, it was one lone goal that made it past Cory Schneider late in the game (as in 59 minutes and 23 seconds late) that was the difference-maker in the Flames’ victory.
The goal came courtesy of Mark Giordano, as Devils defenceman Jon Merrill sat in the sin bin on a slashing penalty.
Despite being without some of their highest-scoring forwards, the Devils loss did not come as a result of a lack of trying. With a playoff spot in the foreseeable future, the home team did all they could to crack Ramo, to no avail. Even legendary Jaromir Jagr had to notice Ramo’s spectacular effort, saying the Finnish goalie played “a perfect game.”
Even with the two points, the Flames’ position in the Western conference remains near dead-last, although their play in the last month of the regular season strongly reflects a team on the rise.
While the majority of the Flames games have followed the theme of overcoming deficits to either win the game or garner at least one point, their last meeting at home against the Los Angeles Kings was on the other end of the spectrum.
Already guaranteed a playoff spot, the Kings’ play has been average and the team was in need of a jolt to set them on the right foot come post-season. That didn’t seem to be the case early on Wednesday night, as it was the Flames who started off the game hot. Midway through the first period, TJ Galiardi put his team on the board first with a pretty little backhander to beat Jonathan Quick.
In the second, Sean Monahan notched his 21st of the season, followed by a wrister by Matt Stajan (Stajan has scored four goals and nabbed six assist since the death of his infant son in early March). However, less than a minute after Stajan’s goal, Jared Stoll deflected a puck past Karri Ramo to finally get the Kings on the board. Two unaswered goals from the visiting team, by Anze Kopitar and Dwight King, respectively, tied the game with less than ten minutes left in the game.
Both goaltenders managed to deny their opponents for the remainder of regulation and throughout the extra frame, and a shootout was needed to settle the score.
Only Marian Gaborik was able to slip a puck past Ramo, while Jiri Hudler chose an unorthodox method to score on Quick (a slapshot) and Sean Monahan scored the shootout winner to claim the 4-3 victory for the Flames.
It was a bittersweet night at the Saddledome as the Flames faced off against the Winnipeg Jets in their last home game of the season. With an overwhelming amount of Jets fans in the stands and several legendary Flames alumni in the building, the game promised to be an exciting one.
Unfortunately for the home team, it turned out to be slightly more exciting for the Jets, and one of their defencemen in particular.
Michael Frolik and Evander Kane scored to give the Jets a 2-0 lead in the opening frame. With his 17th of the season, Jiri Hudler cut the Jets’ lead in half minutes into the second, but was quickly answered back by Carl Klingberg.
On a Jets penalty to Mark Stuart, Flames rookie sensation Sean Monahan scored to bring his season tally to 2. (Monahan has steadily maintained a close second to Nathan Mackinnon for leading scorer amongst the 2013 NHL Draft class throughout the season and ended his 7-month stint in the NHL just two short of Mackinnon’s 24 goals.)
A goal by Kris Russell on the same powerplay tied the game before the end of the second period, but a slapshot by Paul Postma (his first of the season) and an empty-netter by Blake Wheeler gave the Jets the 5-3 win over the home team.
What better way to end an incredibly exciting season for the Flames than to face the team that has provided hockey fans with incredibly exciting fodder to fuel their division rivalry?
The Vancouver Canucks have had a memorable season of their own, but not quite on the positive end. With the departure of goalie Roberto Luongo, the firing of general manager Mike Gillis and the team’s failure to make it into the playoffs, the team was looking to end their season on a good note.
And although they did end up with the win, the game was not without its share of drama and a war of words from the bench bosses.
Daniel Sedin scored two goals in the first, and Frank Corrado, Ryan Kesler and Yannick Weber added goals of their own as they dominated the Flames.
But a bright spot in the game for Flames fans came from a player who that night stepped onto NHL ice for the very first time wearing the flaming ‘C’. Johnny Gaudreau, the highly-touted Flames prospect who enjoyed a breakout season with Boston College, had just wrapped up his college hockey career as the recipient of the Hobey Baker Award days before playing his very first NHL game as a member of the Calgary Flames. One of the more promising prospects for the Flames, Gaudreau, or “Johnny Hockey” as he’s come to be known, scored the Flames’ lone goal, a deflected shot from Joe Colborne from the side of the net.
Though Gaudreau’s goal was a main storyline from the game, a scary moment came in close second when Daniel Sedin had to leave the game following a hit from behind from Flames centerman Paul Byron. While the hit was not seen as dirty or malicious, Sedin was carted off the ice on a stretcher and did not return for the remainder of the game.
The Canucks avenged their teammate’s injury with the 5-1 win, but the victory did not stop John Tortorella from lashing out against his rival coach Bob Hartley. Tortorella called it an embarrassment to coach against Hartley after witnessing a scene post-Sedin injury, but chose not to elaborate.
The Calgary Flames ended their first official rebuild season on a slight incline, a general success from the eyes of not only the team, but hockey analysts and hockey fans as well. While there is much to be done before the Flames are back into competitive playoff form once again, there were many positives in their 2013-2014 season, one that has been called “the most exciting Flames season to watch in over a decade.” Blue-collar work ethic and a refusal to give up have become the Flames’ MO, and with the addition of several young players and prospects over the summer, it is only looking to get better from here.
Graduate of Mount Royal University’s Journalism program and a freelance sports writer from Calgary, Alberta.