CALGARY — As a decidedly family-oriented crowd left the Saddledome Saturday afternoon, there was a strong belief amongst the fans the Calgary Flames had been Scrooged.
Many were convinced the hometown heroes were on the short end of a blown offside call that changed the entire complexion of a game previously dominated by the hosts.
The fact video replay confirmed the call was correct and the Carolina Hurricanes‘s game-opening goal stood became a reality the Flames weren’t able to overcome.
Sixty-five seconds later, former Flame Dougie Hamilton made Calgary pay for its punitive challenge by scoring his 12th of the season on the power play.
Game essentially over.
“It was a little deflating, for sure, especially when everyone on the bench thought it was offside and we were pretty sure it was,” Flames forward Derek Ryan said following a 4-0 loss.
“And then it gets called a goal, and they get on the power play and score a goal, as well. So a pretty deflating little bit of time there, but that’s the adversity a good team can get over in the midst of a game.”
Make no mistake, the Flames are a good team – the seven-game winning streak under interim coach Geoff Ward that proceeded Saturday’s game attests to that.
But then, so are the Hurricanes – a young speedy squad that leaned on James Reimer for a spiffy 32-save shutout that started with Calgary outshooting them 12-4 in the first period.
A resilient Canes’ club rebounded in the second period, leading to a battle at the Flames blue line midway through a scoreless game that clearly saw the puck leave the offensive zone by a foot or two. Carolina call-up Julien Gauthier reached back while straddling the line to send it back in. At that precise moment Brock McGinn was still racing to try exiting the Flames zone, temporarily putting him offside.
However, he tagged up milliseconds later, keeping the play alive as Gauthier kept one-foot outside the zone at the same time.
Gauthier collected the puck soon thereafter, getting it to Jordan Martinook, who made a pretty pass to McGinn, who wasted no time putting it past David Rittich.
The Flames challenged the play, prompting the linesman to take a quick look at it before affirming they had indeed made the right call. The unsuccessful challenge meant the Flames would play shorthanded.
The NHL’s war room in Toronto told Sportsnet.ca it was a simple tag-up play by McGinn prior to Gauthier entering the zone and touching the puck.
“The right call was made, 100 per cent,” said Ward afterwards.
“We just felt like maybe the guy hadn’t tagged up when we looked at it. But when we took a look at it after it was the right call. There was a lot going on there. If (Gauthier) would have touched the puck a fraction of a second earlier we probably have the offside call. I don’t think it affected the bench a whole lot. At that point in the game we still had lots of time to come back.”
Two short-handed goals by Warren Foegele late in the third sealed the deal, stopping a string that saw the Flames as the hottest team in the league, going 8-1-1.
“We talked about it in here after the game — 8-1-1 in our last 10, beat some really good teams on the road, played some really good games at home, as well,” said Ryan, adding much-needed perspective to the first hiccup in weeks.
“If you would have told us that we’d have that record in that 10-game segment, we would have taken that all day long. Obviously not the result that we wanted today but at the same time, we have built something here that’s pretty special in terms of coming back from our losing streak before that. I think we’re in a pretty good spot, so no reason to hang our heads.”
As Elias Lindholm pointed out, it may have been the Flames best opening period of the season. They simply ran into a hot goaltender who joked afterwards it was the first good game he’s ever played at the Dome.
“Today was a tough one,” said captain Mark Giordano, whose top power-play unit created all sorts of good scoring chances thwarted by Reimer.
“It was one of those games that it felt like the team that scored first was going to have a real advantage, and I think that was the case.”