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5 THINGS - FLAMES VS. MAPLE LEAFS

The Flames look to bounce back in second of two straight with the Leafs

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

FLAMES (16-20-3) vs. MAPLE LEAFS (25-10-3)

7:30 p.m. MT | TV: Sportsnet West/Flames | RADIO: Sportsnet 960 The FAN

Season Series: 2-4-1

 

Video: Brendan Parker sets up tonight's tilt

 

Leading Scorers:

Flames:

Points - Elias Lindholm (31)
Goals - Johnny Gaudreau (13)

Maple Leafs:

Points - Mitch Marner (47)
Goals - Auston Matthews (25)

Special Teams:

Flames:

PP - 20.0% (17th) / PK - 80.2% (15th)

Maple Leafs:

PP - 22.9% (8th) / PK - 77.9% (20th)

Advanced Stats:

Flames:

Shot Attempts: 51.96% (9th)
High-Danger Chances: 50.42% (13th)

Maple Leafs:

Shot Attempts: 50.49% (13th)
High-Danger Chances: 55.00% (5th)


1. ABOUT LAST NIGHT

Win the period, win the game. We've all heard that before.

For the second straight outing, the Flames had that very opportunity in front of them, with the count squared through 40 minutes and a chance to take down a formidable foe.

But, again, it was the enemy that found twine.

John Tavares broke a 2-2 tie at 6:55 of the third period, before Auston Matthews added the insurance marker less than two-and-a-half minutes later, as the visitors skated to a 4-2 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The Flames had a tepid start to the evening, surrendering the game's opening strike on Toronto's first try less than a minute into the contest, and were out-shot 10-2 in the front half of the opening stanza - but they were excellent in the next 30 minutes of action.

That included Joakim Nordstrom's first goal as a Flame (more on that later), and Andrew Mangiapane's top-shelf tuck that gave the Flames their first lead of the night.

In fact, there was a nearly 15-minute portion spanning the first and second periods where the Leafs didn't register a single shot on goal.

But once they found their sea legs and Alex Galchenyuk tallied his first in blue silks to even the score late in the middle period, they were right back in the game with a chance to win it in the final frame.

And they did.

"You've got to be able to make plays when games are close in the third period," said captain Mark Giordano. "They had a push there, but we've got to have our own push and make plays under pressure when games are tight. A couple breakdowns. That's a good team over there ... You could tell they were coming out with the mentality to win the game in the third and we need to have that mentality."

The Leafs out-shot the Flames and doubled them up on scoring chances, 12-6, including a 4-1 margin from the high-danger spots in the closing 20.

That's an area the skipper would like to see cleaned up in the return meeting tonight.

"We'll go over it, but I thought in the third, a couple pucks, a couple mistakes end up in the back of our net," Giordano said. "But we have to have a better push coming out of the period.

"We have to be aggressive. We have to be the ones on offence.

"We're in a spot where we need wins, and wins in regulation if we can get them. We need to have the confidence to make plays in those situations."

David Rittich got the start in goal, stopping 26 of the 30 shots he faced. Michael Hutchinson opposed, thwarting 32 of 34 in the victory.

Hutchinson is 4-2-1 with a .919 save percentage this season after going 4-9-1 with an .886 save percentage last year.

 

Video: Condensed Game: Maple Leafs @ Flames

 

2. MR. 500

Jack Giordano had a special birthday request last night for his dad.  

With the elder Gio sitting on point No. 499 for an entire week, it was time to put the pressure on his pops.

"He asked me, actually, (as I left) the house," Giordano said. "It's special. It will give Jack something to remember, for sure, on his birthday."

The point came in the form of an apple, with Giordano filtering a shot through the point that was tipped home by Joakim Nordstrom.

The 37-year-old is one of only three defencemen in franchise history to score 500 points - all in a Calgary uniform. Al MacInnis and Gary Suter are the others.

Overall, he's the ninth player in franchise lore to achieve that milestone, and is now rubbing elbows with an elite group of Flaming C legends, including Jarome Iginla, Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk, Kent Nilsson, Guy Chouinard and Gary Roberts.

He's also one of only five undrafted defenceman since 1969 to hit the 500-point plateau, joining Borje Salming (787), Steve Duchesne (752), Dan Boyle (605) and Brian Rafalski (515) in the record books.

Talk about great company.

"I feel like I've had a long career here," Giordano said of his 15 years in the organization. "There have been a few bumps in the road here at the start of my career, obviously, with the minors and going overseas - but I felt that once I established myself as a good defenceman who can defend in the NHL, that allows you to play in the NHL. And then I've been able to show what I can do offensively.

"I've been fortunate to play with obviously a ton of good players, and I've also been fortunate to play a lot of my career on the
powerplay and that helps get you those numbers."

 

3. POWER OUTAGE

There was a point earlier this year when the Maple Leafs' powerplay was trucking along at 35%, or better.

Those days appear to be long gone.  

Incredibly, with names like Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander, the Buds have gone stone-cold with the man-advantage.

With another oh-fer night against the Flames on Sunday, the Leafs have been silenced on 28 straight chances. Their last powerplay marker came way back on March 9 against Winnipeg - an 11-game span that's levied a 6-3-2 record.

Of course, the Flames do deserve credit for cleanly disposing of Toronto's lone advantage on Sunday, but clearly, the additional firepower isn't needed by Canada's top team right now.

Overall, the Leafs have points in seven straight (6-0-1) and now have a six-point lead on the Oilers and Jets for first place in the North.

A big reason for their recent revival has been the play of goaltender Jack Campbell, who is undefeated in eight starts this year and has a
sparkling, .951 save percentage to show for it.

Campbell, though, is nursing a nagging leg injury that has forced him miss two stretches of time earlier this year. The puck-stopper did not dress last night - not even as the backup - but did get some work in after the morning skate.

According to Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, the "hope" is that he'll be able to resume his duties in the starter's crease tonight.

"We'll have to see," Keefe said. "It didn't make sense to have him back up here today, with the potential of having to go in cold and all that stuff. We'll see how he gets through the morning skate and we'll make the decision from there."

 

4. PLAYERS TO WATCH

Flames - Joakim Nordstrom

Forget the goal.

The guy had all kinds of jump throughout Sunday's tilt and came close to potting a few in the first period alone.

Nordstrom led all skaters with a 69.57% Corsi, a 70.00% (7-3) of the scoring chances, and a 60.00% (3-2) share of the high-danger looks in 10:01 at 5-on-5.

He also had three shots to tie a season high, and played 58 seconds of the PK, and was a force there, too, as he usually is.

 

Maple Leafs - Alex Galchenyuk

The 27-year-old, former third-overall pick in the 2012 Draft, has had a rough ride over the past few years.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season, he's worn five different sweaters, and was briefly on the roster of a sixth, before being traded to Toronto from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 15.  

He's a player that has all sorts of talent and once put up 30-goal, 56-point season with the Montreal Canadiens only five years ago.

His goal last night was his first as Leaf, and he now has four points in eight games with his new team.

 

Video: TOR@CGY: Giordano gets 500th point on Nordstrom goal

 

5. QUOTABLE

"At the time it felt good. But now after a game when we don't win, I can't really think too much of it. ... I'm not really expecting myself to score every game, but it's been - I don't know - 30 games? You start thinking, 'Am I ever going to score again?' Just try to work on tipping pucks and working on the details around the net, and I'm lucky it paid off tonight."

- Nordstrom on scoring his first goal as a Flame

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