The Calgary Flames had their work cut out for them in their second week of the regular season. After dropping the previous game to the St. Louis Blues 4-1, the Flames looked to face four teams who were all above .500 last season. The Nashville Predators were the first to host the Flames on Tuesday night, and although the team had just acquired James Neal (who had scored a total of 88 goals in the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins) the numbers remained relatively low on both sides of the scoreboard.
Nashville struck first with a slapshot from Filip Forsberg, assisted by Derek Roy and Craig Smith. But the lead only lasted a few minutes, with Calgary defenseman TJ Brodie answering back with a goal of his own, helped by fellow blueliner and team captain Mark Giordano.
The two teamed up again in the second period to put Calgary up ahead. After being a victim of high-sticking from Colin Wilson, Giordano took a feed from Brodie and Jiri Hudler on the man advantage and shot a wrister past Pekka Rinne for the go-ahead goal.
Ten minutes later, however, Mike Ribiero’s wrist shot had the game tied up at two.
Rinne stopped nine shots and Karri Ramo stopped seven in the final period to keep the game at a stalemate, but the lack of scoring didn’t mean a lack of excitement. On a 2-on-1 rush by Forsberg and Smith, Ramo robbed the pair of another goal with split-second sliding save, easily the save of the game.
An extra frame couldn’t produce a tie-breaker, so off to a shootout went the Flames and Preds. Ramo again proved to be solid in net, stopping all of Nashville’s shooters (including the sniping James Neal) while Joe Colborne managed to find the back of the net.
With two points in tow and a 3-2 overtime win, the Flames left Nashville the victors.
With no time to dwell on the victory, the Flames were back at it again the next day against the dominating Chicago Blackhawks. In what was expected to be a blowout courtesy of Toews and company, the visiting team did not show any signs of travel fatigue and put up quite the fight against the Hawks. Well, maybe not quite the entire visiting team as much as it was just one player. Jonas Hiller was the star of the night, undoubtedly, and his game against one of the best teams in the league proved why his acquisition will be one of the key factors in the future successes of the Calgary Flames this season.
Hiller made 18 saves in the first period and 16 in the second. On the other end of the ice, Corey Crawford was hardly tested at all, yet one slapper from the Flames’ highest-paid player Dennis Wideman managed to light the goal lamp.
But it was Wideman’s hooking call late in the third gave the Hawks the opportunity to even things up and Andrew Shaw was able to at least guarantee his team one point as regulation came to an end.
Shots were evenly matched throughout the overtime period, but with less than 30 seconds left until a shootout, Mikael Backlund delivered a snapshot to end the game, nabbing the coveted two points for the Flames. The mighty Blackhawks fell to the Calgary Flames 2-1 and Hiller earned the first star of the night with an incredible 49 saves.
Riding high off their last two overtime wins, the Flames had one day to rest before their matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets. And with 24-year old Josh Jooris getting his first NHL call-up after an impressive preseason, the team hoped to give the young center his first NHL win as well.
But three unanswered goals in the span of 28 minutes courtesy of Jack Skille, Ryan Johansen and Matt Calvert had the home team weilding a dominating lead against a tired-looking Flames roster.
However, the burgeoning theme within the Flames early in this season of not giving up despite being behind made an appearance in the third. Mason Raymond finally got Calgary on the board with a wrister to beat Sergei Bobrovsky just two minutes into the final period. Ten minutes later, Jooris potted his very first career NHL goal with a wrister of his own, taken from a feed from Mark Giordano. The late push produced a flurry of shots towards the Blue Jackets’ tender but it was too little too late, and the Flames dropped their stint in Columbus 3-2.
The Flames’ last stop in their six-game road trip was in Winnipeg against the Evander Kane-less Jets. In contrast to the game against Chicago, the matchup was slated to be in the Flames’ favour from start to finish. However, the first was dominated significantly by the home team, who outshot Calgary 13-6 and nabbed the lead at the midway point of the period. The only highlight of the first 20 minutes was the dedication put forth by center Lance Bouma, who repeatedly blocked shots (including one very painful-looking one from Dustin Byfuglien) in order to keep the deficit at just one.
Perhaps Bouma’s bodily sacrifices, which are sure to leave the 24-year old looking like one big bruise for the next couple of weeks, worked as a morale booster in the dressing room during the first intermission, because as the second frame opened up, the Flames came out onto the ice like an entirely different team.
With his second of the season, Dennis Wideman sought to justify his salary, tying the game at one at the six-minute mark. And just under five minutes later, Johnny Hockey sought to justify his nickname with his second career NHL goal, a beauty of a wraparound that put the Flames in the lead.
Gaudreau then assisted on Mason Raymond’s fifth goal of the season as the atmosphere in the MTS Center quickly deflated with the second period coming to an end.
The Flames wasted no time adding to their side of the scoreboard as TJ Brodie wired one past Ondrej Pavalec.
Jonas Hiller, continuing with his spectacular stoppage from Wednesday night, effectively denied any other attempts at a goal by the opposing team and Calgary ended the game in regulation with an uplifting 4-1 victory.
Although they faced some tough opposition throughout the last week, the Calgary Flames rounded out a rather successful road trip. They look to extend the success on Tuesday, October 21st at home against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Stay tuned for Week Two 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.