The Calgary Flames had a few days to recover from a tough week in which they won only one of their last four games. On Thursday night, the benefits of a four-day break and a very light schedule (Week 12 held only two games for the Flames) were evident against the Arizona Coyotes.
Joni Ortio’s remarkable performance against the Vancouver Canucks earned him the start for the game, and picking up where he left off, stopped all 11 scoring attempts by the Coyotes in the first period. Mike Smith matched Ortio’s efforts on the other end of the ice, and the opening frame ended scoreless.
That didn’t last long, however. Showing no signs of cooling down his hot streak, Mikael Backlund got things started early in the second, taking a feed from Johnny Gaudreau and whipping a wrister into the back of the Coyotes’ net.
Eleven minutes later, winger Mikkel Boedker answered back with a goal of his own, tying the game at one.
But that would be all Ortio would allow from the Coyotes, who lost control of the game going forward.
The Flames took over the third period, almost doubling the Coyotes’ shots on goal, and scoring three unanswered goals, courtesy of David Jones, Mark Giordano and an empty-netter from Sean Monahan.
With 43 hits and no penalties taken, the Flames played a fiery, clean game that easily secured their 4-1 win over Arizona.
Not too far ahead of the Flames in the Western conference standings were the San Jose Sharks, who hosted them on Saturday night. Ortio made his third consecutive start, hoping to add another win to his name.
It looked promising to start the game, as Ortio remained relatively untested in the first period, facing only four shots, which he easily stopped. Poor Anti Niemi, on the other hand, was not so lucky, as the Flames sent a slew of attempts his way, with two of the eleven shots on goal finding the back of the net. Dennis Wideman’s eleventh goal of the season came less than a minute into the first, tying him with Mark Giordano for third amongst the Flames in goals.
The second goal of the period came as Jiri Hudler sat in the penalty box for a tripping call to Melker Karlsson. Despite having the man advantage, a costly giveaway by Joe Pavelski saw the puck end up on Joe Colborne’s stick, and finally to the back of the Sharks’ net.
Being down 2-0 to start the second certainly didn’t cause the Sharks to lose their bite, however. In fact, they completely dominated the middle frame, and wasted no time getting themselves back into the game. Logan Couture’s snapshot came 12 seconds in, and just over two minutes later Joe Thornton’s wrister had things all tied up at two. Melker Karlsson added another to give the Sharks their first lead of the game, but leave it to Jiri Hudler (the Flames’ leader in both goals and overall points) to once again have the game tied.
The final 20 minutes of regulation produced nothing, and an extra frame was needed to settle the score. With at least one point in tow, the Flames headed into overtime in search for another.
And they got it, before fans even had a chance to blink.
A clean faceoff win by Sean Monahan led to a clean backhander, ending the game 4-3 in favour of the Flames, just 24 seconds into OT.
Although Johnny Gaudreau has taken over as the Flames’ more celebrated rookie this season, Monahan continues to amaze, albeit a little more quietly in his sophomore year. With only 120 NHL games under his belt, Monahan now has four overtime winners and five shootout winners.
Back into a playoff position to start Week 13, the Flames play the last of their four-game road trip against the L.A. Kings on Monday night.
Stay tuned for Week Thirteen of The Flames Files and follow the Calgary Flames’ progress in the 2014-2015 season.
Graduate of Mount Royal University’s Journalism program and a freelance sports writer from Calgary, Alberta.