The Flames successfully got back in the series at home tonight with an energetic 4-2 win over the Blackhawks. It was not a perfect homecoming, but it was the Flames' most complete effort to date in this series. Ultimately the Flames won primarily because they got their best effort yet from Olli Jokinen, because they finally got some luck, and because they brought their A game in the third to blow the game open.
In all honesty, I wasn't that impressed by Calgary's offense the first two periods. Eric Nystrom managed to get a huge tying goal after the Blackhawks' early powerplay goal, and Miikka Kiprusoff preserved the tie with some huge saves. The Flames' ludicrous (I love coming up with new adjectives to describe it every game) power play was on display twice. The passing game looked at its worst. Yet, the big play came from Jokinen. His check behind the Chicago net created a turnover to the stick of Rene Bourque, who threw it at Khabibulin's pads, where it somehow eluded him from the right post.
The Flames finally had some luck, and here's where I have to give the Flames credit for how they kept their lead in the third period. David Moss banged home Adam Pardy's rebound early, then crashed the net to deflect a Curtis Glencross shot to make it 4-1. This type of offense was the kind the Flames have needed, in my opinion, to strive for instead of the prettier style they seem to have thought they are capable of. The Flames were at their best during the third period, unlike the previous two games where the third killed them.
I cannot complain about the way Jokinen or Miikka Kiprusoff played tonight. When Michael Cammalleri and Jarome Iginla virtually disappeared (more on Iggy later), Jokinen had to be the one to step up among the Flames' top players. Kiprusoff, meanwhile, made 36 saves on 38 shots, including some big saves when the game was tied. An unheralded star for the Flames was also Cory Sarich, who was the Flames' best defenseman and made the sort of intangible plays that make a shutdown defenseman.
The Flames' hitting game was what most impressed me. It is obvious the Blackhawks have a speed advantage but keeping up physical play will be crucial if the Flames want to win this series.
The stage was set for Game 4 in dramatic fashion when 64 penalty minutes were handed out during two scrums in the final minute. Adam Burish, after three games of egging on Jarome Iginla, finally got to the Flames captain when he dropped his stick to go after Rene Bourque, prompting an unwelcome response from Iggy. How Iginla responds to this will be a key subplot going forward. He is obviously angry now; Pierre McGuire said during the game that the Blackhawks trash talk to Iggy was the worst he has ever seen to a star player. After being almost completely shut down by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, one must wonder whether Iggy is ready to break out. Making Iginla angry typically hasn't been a good thing for opposition in the past.
Unless the Flames continue their inconsistent ways, Game 4 should be fantastic. If the Flames win it is a new series, if they lose, well, you know me.
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Written by Alex Hamilton