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(Insert Fire Pun Here) Red Wings 4-6 Flames

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My Disappoint is Positively FIERY

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Wings entered Calgary tonight to start the Western Canada swing and having won their previous two games. So with the possibility of producing their first winning streak since mid-November, what did the Wings do? Break our freaking hearts.

Side note: John Ogrodnick was in the studio with John Keating, which was awesome! I was a little boy when he last played hockey, but I’m a huge fan of his from the replays. He was pretty good on the air, too!

Side note: Calgary wore those vintage jerseys tonight, the ones with the white C instead of black. Man, those look 1000 times better. Why don’t they use that one all the time?

First Period

First thing I noticed: Mike Smith is backstopping the best team in the Pacific, which is just... weird. He’s just never been a guy I thought would backstop a cup contender. Second observation: the Flames might be the fastest team I’ve watched this year. Case in point: the first five minutes of the period showed Calgary putting on an annoying backcheck, and while Larkin did lead a nice 2-on-1, every other opportunity the Wings got to shake the Flames for a scoring opportunity, the Flames descended on them fast. They’re young and quick, and maybe this is what Detroit looks like in a couple seasons? Their draft positions earlier in the decade were similar to Detroit’s over the past few years.

Jimmy Howard had a real tough test half way through the period off a Tkachuk one-timer. The play pointed out a strength of Calgary’s over Detroit: the passes are much crisper. Part of this is because of Calgary’s defensive scheme; they prioritize getting into the passing lanes.

The Wings got their first power play of the game around six minutes remaining thanks to a tripping call against T.J. Brodie. Larkin nearly scored on the one-timer from a Kronwall-Nielsen sequence, but no dice. The Wings’ couldn’t convert, and overall I’d say the powerplay ran hot and cold, looking very dangerous at times, but also tame in other moments, with the Flames easily clearing away the puck.

The Wings got their sea legs in the second half of the period, which will eventually lead to more power plays, which is exactly what ended up happening; Giordano speared Athanasiou. The power play looked pretty mediocre, but T.J. Brodie did Detroit another solid when he whacked Vanek in the face for the high-sticking call.

The Wings only needed 15 seconds of the 5-on-3 for them to cycle the puck, play a little catch, and for Mantha to shoot it past Mike Smith from the top of the right circle to make it 1-0 Detroit!!! Assists from Kronwall and Nyquist (his 30th of the season.)

The period closed out with the Wings still on the man advantage and a 1-0 lead. Not bad for how things started!

Score: 1-0 Red Wings
Shots: 10-9 Flames
Stand Ups: The Power Play, Larkin, Howard

Second Period

Well, that power play didn’t go the Wings hoped. No dice to start the period, but Gaudreau got his stick on the puck multiple times in the opening minutes. Terrifying stuff every time he goes streaking into the zone, I tell you.

Five minutes in Calgary really began to force their style onto the game; they even had a 3-on-1 at one point, but the scoring chance was broken up by a sprawling Ericsson. From there, the Flames established zone and drew a cross-checking penalty from Mike Green. Calgary pulled their goalie and maintained the 6-on-5 in Detroit’s zone for nearly a minute.

The ensuing penalty kill looked really good all the way up until the point it didn’t. James Neal somehow managed to send a cross-ice pass just in front of the crease over to Sam Bennett, who knotted the game up 1-1 on a power play goal.

The Wings were none-too-happy about the lost lead and came up with a big shift right afterwards. Athanasiou and Mantha both had great scoring opportunities. Unfortunately nothing materialized from them, but the continual transformation and resilience of the Detroit Red Wings this year is one of the most satisfying developments to watch this season.

The Wings continued to put pressure on Calgary in a lot of real high quality back and forth until finally Larkin got alone just right of the slot and ripped a shot off Giordano’s stick and in the net to make it 2-1 Red Wings! Helpers come courtesy of Green and Bertuzzi.

But Gaudrea and Lindholm and Monahan would help the Flames get their revenge 90 seconds later off a Cholowski turnover and an ill-placed DLR foot as the three set up a triangle and put another one past Jimmy Howard to make it 2-2.

The game hard-charged back and forth, and I would say the Flames were getting a slight edge of things, but man, what a fun period. It would have been more fun to see the Wings walk away from it with a lead, but after two periods we had a real good hockey game in front of us in Calgary.

Score: 2-2 Tie
Shots: 24-21 Flames
Stand Ups: Larkin, Jensen

Third Period

The Wings basically began the period on the power play off a Tkachuk tripping penalty but it was ugly and I don’t want to talk about it.

Larkin must’ve been mad, because he went into beast mode and nearly scored end-to-end, but Smith lunged at him and the puck and it definitely was not tripping at all.

Off a broken clearing attempt following a Wings’ defensive zone draw, the puck finally squirted out along the boards back towards Calgary’s end. It would have been an easy pick up for Calgary had Mantha not forced the issue, but his excellent hustle forced the Flames into a disjointed pass behind the net. In the ensuing chaos Nielsen got the puck back up to Vanek at the point, who passed to Green at the right circle, who drove the play toward Smith and scored off a rising backhander! 3-2 Red Wings!

About a minute later Larkin got called for... something... against Johnny Gaudreau and went to the box as the rest of the Wings were tasked with fending off a critical penalty. It was a white knuckle power play that almost turned out alright. Almost. Until a fairly innocent Rasmus Andersson shot got tipped by James Neal and made it 3-3, and made me say “DAMMIT!” in a way I haven’t in a long, long time.

Then the Wings made one of their prettiest sequences all season. Dekeyser blocked a Flames shot in front of Howard, causing the puck to squirt out to Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi made the clean pass to Larkin, who sprung Nyquist for the breakaway at center ice. With three Flames tailing him, Nyquist cut left in front of Smith, pulling the goalie with him. Then the Swede threw the puck back to the trailing Larkin who launched the puck into the wide open net to give the advantage back to the Wings, 4-3!!!

Both these teams kept on pushing hard in just a bunch of high quality, back and forth hockey. Things especially looked pretty good when another Flame went to the penalty box for interference against Helm, but Calgary got an odd-man break against Detroit and Mark Giordano sent a bouncing puck past Jimmy Howard to knot the game back up 4-4. Ughhhh!!!!

But the power play continued, so still an opportunity to get the lead back. Athanasiou tried to lug the puck across the line but got stood up by Ryan. Ryan immediately started booking it toward Howard with position on Mike Green. Green had to interfere with Ryan to break up the play, leading to a 4-on-4 situation.

In the ensuing 4-on-4 Larkin took a hard hit in the corner, so we will see how that develops. Once the Wings switched from 4-on-4 to the penalty kill the Flames began charging through the neutral zone. Glendening left his coverage assignment on Sam Bennett to cover the puck carrier, allowing for the open Sam Bennett to receive a pass and shoot the puck past Howard on the left side to give the Calgary their first lead, 5-4 Flames.

The Wings pulled Howard with 90 seconds remaining. TJ Brodie salted away the game with the empty net goal 6-4.

Score: 6-4 Flames
Shots: 36-35 Flames
Stand Ups: Forget it, I’m eating pizza. (Nyquist had a good period and a good game.)

Conclusion

Dammit that was a good game until like 5 minutes left when the Flames showed why they’re really good. I guess on the bright side, I don’t get too mad like this anymore, not like I did eight years ago. Mad when a good game slips away. In a way, maybe we should all appreciate it.

The Wings are back in action for a matinée match up against Brock Boeser, Elias Petterson, and the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.