CALGARY – On a night dedicated to saluting the fans, the Calgary Flames welcomed their patrons back with an effort rife with entertainment.
Their prized free-agent signing, Blake Coleman, waited just seven minutes into his Flames debut to endear himself with a goal.
Employing the type of tenacious forecheck the team hopes will form its identity, the club generated 43 shots on goal and carried one of Darryl Sutter’s beloved 2-1 leads into the third period.
Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau looked dangerous all night, combining for 19 shots in an affair that seemed destined to reward fans with the team’s first win of the year.
Alas, the evening didn’t end the way any of the mask-wearing 15,174 on hand had hoped.
A bad line change allowed the rebuilding Ducks of Anaheim to tie the game late in the third before youngster Jamie Drysdale silenced the gathering in overtime.
“We only got one point tonight so x’s and o’s and all that may be alright, but individuals… you question some of them,” said Sutter after the 3-2 loss. “Lots of opportunities, but seal the deal. Early in the (5-2 loss) in Edmonton too we had lots of chances.”
All told, the Flames have thrown 90 shots on goal in their two games, but have just four goals and one point to show for it.
Not an ideal start, but a solid base on which to build.
“Not frustrated,” said Gaudreau when asked about the barrage of offensive forays that saw every Flames player except Noah Hanifin record a shot on goal.
“We have 40 shots in both games (47 on Saturday), we’ve just got to get in front of the goalie and bear down on our chances. We could have had three or five goals there if we find the net there.”
The first regular season game with fans in the building in 590 days opened with a tribute to front-line healthcare heroes that drew a stirring standing ovation at its conclusion.
The traditional opening night introductions for players was altered, as each player on the roster was represented instead by a local medical worker wearing their jersey. After all the players, 20 were introduced and the workers stood spaced out on the ice along the goal line, the team skated out to the blue line and faced them. A thank-you video prompted the stadium to stand in support, leading into an emotional set of national anthems.
Cue Coleman, who took a good breakaway pass from Gaudreau and beat John Gibson to put the hosts up early.
“One nothing,” said the 29-year-old newcomer when asked what went through his head after converting on a night all eyes were on him.
“It’s obviously a great start. I was excited. I had my (one-year-old) daughter (Charlie) in the stands. That’s kind of where my head went, honestly. She doesn’t come to all the games, so she’s kind of been my good luck charm. It’s a fun thing we have.
“It was a great start, and obviously it got us going early. It's unfortunate we let that one get away. For my first game it was not the result I was looking for.”
Cam Fowler tied the game with a power-play goal late in the first before Lindholm converted another beautiful Gaudreau pass, setting the stage for the first of many Flames attempts to hold on to a late lead in a low-scoring affair.
However, a bad line change allowed Rickard Rakell to convert a nifty Adam Henrique pass with seven minutes left.
A late power play by the Flames was turned away in dramatic fashion by Gibson, setting the table for an all-world pass by Troy Terry in overtime that Drysdale converted in tight.
“They scored a power-play goal and we didn’t and we had a big opportunity to go up late with the power play,” said Sutter, summing up the game. “I thought the first five minutes of the game we were a little sluggish, but we had a really good second period. The tying goal was a change goal, we didn’t come off at the right time.”
The game featured one of the more bizarre plays seen at the Dome in recent lore, as Tkachuk demonstrated his world class hand/eye coordination by leaping up from the bench to bat a clearing pass from Mikael Backlund from high out of the air. The puck was clearly destined to go over the glass into the stands for a delay of game penalty, which is why he jumped to try saving it.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 19, 2021
He was instantly given an interference penalty, which he fully understood after seeing a replay and discussing it with the referee.
Fowler’s goal came on the ensuing power play.
“Either way it was going to be a penalty,” said Sutter, shrugging.
“It’s going to be shot out, delay of game, over the glass, or Matthew tries to knock it down. It’s a penalty.”
The Flames leave Wednesday for a five-game roadie out east with just one point in two outings.