“Still can’t win here,” the Calgary Flames must have been saying to themselves Saturday night after losing 3-2 in Anaheim, and nobody could quite explain why afterwards. Their coach, Glen Gulutzan, was stymied by a non-call, a disallowed goal that would have put them up 3-2 in the second period. “I don’t know. I don’t know any more. I don’t know what the rule is.” He was unclear about the rule, he repeated. There was apparently a call from Toronto on the review, but even then, he wasn’t apprised exactly of what had happened.
By the end of the game, the 3-2 score had gone the other way, and it was the Ducks who were in the winning position. Their third goal had been a lucky bounce, on the power play. Getzlaf had scored it.
Gulutzan said in particular that he doesn’t blame the guy who the puck ricocheted off of, Lance Bouma, because he was just in position doing his job. “They got a bounce. It’s a game of bounces right now,” he first said, then after another question, “It’s absolutely not his fault. It’s part of the structure of the penalty kill. They’re trying to seam us. He gets in the seam, and it ricochets off his foot and goes in the net. There’s nothing you can say. It’s just hockey. It’s just, they got a bounce.”
Carlyle of the Ducks said it about the same way: “You always ask your players to shoot the puck, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
In fact, it came from the right half wall, towards the slot, and hit Bouma’s skate. Patrick Eaves was in front of the net and got a good wave at it, but apparently didn’t touch it on its way into the cage. Poor goalie Brian Elliott was moving to his right at the time, as he should have been, and didn’t get a chance to stop his momentum and move the other direction.
So bad luck, and the Flames played plenty well enough to win here. They had more shots than the Ducks, and they largely controlled the play in two areas: they were better at getting the puck out of their zone, giving their guys a lot of dangerous breaks towards the Anaheim net, and they were good at forcing the Ducks’ defense into giving up the puck. Even experienced player Hampus Lindholm found himself handing it over, at a late part of the game and with the Ducks up 3-2, no less.
But the Ducks’ problems, such as they were, were not confined to that player or that moment. Coach Carlyle pointed in particular to a poor second period, saying that he got his guys in the room to refocus after that time. “We had probably one of our worst periods in a long time, from the standpoint of we just stood around watching what they did. We couldn’t complete two passes. We gave up 15 shots. I think we had three penalties in the period. It was time to reset. Reset our group. Forget about it, because basically what we needed to do was establish our game again right at the top of the third period. And I thought we did that.”
Further Carlyle wisdom on this: “We just stopped playing. Yeah, you can talk on the bench, and you can get emotionally involved, and you can do a bunch of different things, but in reality, it took until the intermission for us to settle down. We were flustered. And luckily enough, it was 2-2, and we said we can get back into this game by playing our game in the third period, and reset ourselves. That’s what we set out to do in the period, and we did it.”
Getzlaf commented similarly, “That was an ugly period for us. They came out with an attitude in the second period that they were going to try to push us. They did a great job. They got us off our game a little bit.”
Understatement alert. They kicked the Ducks down the block in period two. Here are a couple of highlights for you. Gaudreau stole a puck and came down the right side. On a power play, Sean Monahan burst in alone and shot. Gibson made the save. They passed the puck around the zone on that same PP and a quick tip went to Gaudreau, then to the slot to Monahan, who scored. It was shot 16 on the night for the Flames, and it made the game 2-2.
Shortly after this, the puck went down to the Calgary end, then was back in the Ducks’ zone, for two shots and two rebounds. Two more shots came, the last into Gibson’s glove low. He had his arm stretched straight out on the ice—the only thing between the shooter and the open net.
After that, Versteeg backhanded a puck from behind the net to the crease, where Sam Bennett was. The puck went in, prompting the review described elsewhere here. Calgary’s first goal, by the way, was a shorthanded beauty late in period one which was Backland getting sprung, going in with a deke-deke, and putting it past Gibson.
Calgary controlled the play right after that Bennett goal, too, on the faceoff, though a turnover sprung the Ducks’ Getzlaf on a semi-break. Someone caught up to him to spoil the chance. The Ducks then lost their composure, starting to run around their zone. Even when they got it into the Calgary end, the play quickly turned back up the ice.
To continue with the action, on a power play, Gaudreau passed up a shot attempt, instead, trying to pass to a teammate on the opposite side of the ice. This was one of the only mistakes the Calgary offense made on the evening.
The second period ended with a fight between Bieksa and Ferland, and a further scrum at the whistle. So the Ducks were off kilter—way off kilter.
They got it back to a degree as the third began. Eaves and Rakell went in together, Eaves shooting for the rebound. The Ducks then started to control the puck, and to hit. Rakell went one-on-one with Dougie Hamilton, but lost the puck. Ritchie came in on the right wing and shot—high and wide. Perry put a puck out from behind the net to Cogliano. He shot wide. I said above “to a degree” because indeed, the Ducks were close, but not close enough to the net to really do damage.
By contrast, the Flames were pressing and close on every chance they got. But a mistake cost them. Perry broke out with a partner, and Hamilton hauled him down and got called for holding the stick. Gulutsan said afterwards that this was unfair—that it showed that there was a different standard being used late in the game—but that you can’t control. The Ducks got their lucky bounce goal on the ensuing power play.
It’s a series, and the biggest mistake a team can make is to think two games is enough to win it. That’s perhaps why the Calgary coach said, “I think we’ve played well enough to win. We’ve talked about momentum within a series and momentum within a game, and they’ve got the bounces. But things can change quickly. Momentum can swing.”
And for his part, Carlyle said that it would be other people than his big players who would start to score. “It’s not an easy thing to go through like we did in the second period tonight. Does it show that we’re mentally tired? Does it show that we’re fatigued in certain areas? Those are certain indications that we’ve played a lot of hockey over the last little while, and this is a physical series, and we’ve had things to our way, and we just want to continue with that.”
Makes you think, “Gee—you’re only in the second game of the first series of, potentially, four. Kinda early to be talking about being fatigued, isn’t it?”
The two squads go at it again Monday and Wednesday. Anything beyond that is not guaranteed. And if the Flames are to win the series, they’ve got to take one game in Anaheim. They’re now at 29 losses in a row in the Ducks’ home rink.
Carlyle said after that he was quite happy with Gibson. “I haven’t seen a successful team in the playoffs without good goaltending, and we’ve no complaints with what we’re getting, that’s for sure.”
I’m a guest on the Puck Podcast this week. Please look on ITunes for that.