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Monahan, Gaudreau and Giordano supply the offence, but the Flames open the season with a 5-3 loss in Colorado

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Calgarians know a thing or two about the weathering the storm.

With an 'Idaho Low' setting up shop and dumping historic amounts of the white stuff just last week, snow-shovels, stick-to-it-iveness, patience and grit have already been put to the test in these parts.

So, naturally, a trip to the Mile High City to open the new season certainly seemed appropriate.


Video: Brendan Parker recaps the loss to the Avs

On the road, in hostile territory for their opponent's home opener, the Flames were going to be tasked with the same:

The forecast calls for it.

So, buckle down, stay calm and handle it.

They did, but the strong, winter surge didn't let up, either.

Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano supplied the offence while David Rittich made 27 saves in a sensational effort, but the Flames dropped a 5-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday at the Pepsi Center.

Joonas Donskoi and Mikko Rantanen each potted a pair, while JT Compher added a single for the homeside.

Rittich was downright heroic early in this one, stealing a sure goal from newcomer Joonas Donskoi in the opening stages. Splayed out, fighting through traffic with his torso in the freeze, 'Big Save Dave' lived up his nickname and used the tip of the right pad to thwart the chance in tight.

Donskoi would get his revenge, though, as the Avalanche opened the scoring with a powerplay goal shortly thereafter, with the former Shark getting a stick on Samuel Girard's point blast, beating a screened Rittich high over the shoulder to give the homeside the edge at 5:59.

The Avs kept coming and nearly potted their second only moments later, but Nazem Kadri's try from the bottom of the circle struck iron and kept the Flames within a strike.

The good fortune paid off as the Flames got back on even terms with a powerplay tally of their own, cashing at the tail end of an abbreviated, 5-on-3 advantage, courtesy of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Nikita Zadorov.

Lugging the puck with speed up the far side, Monahan spotted Lindholm driving the middle lane, but his attempted pass to his right-shooting linemate went off the stick on Donskoi instead, beating Phillip Grubauer under the arm.

The goal came at 4:08, with Gaudreau picking up the primary assist and getting a head-start on the Century Chase.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Zebulon.#CGYvsCOL | #Flames


However, penalty trouble kept the Avs on the hunt, and shortly after a Michael Frolik interference penalty expired, Rantanen put the home team back on top with a cheeky backhander off the rush.

A Connor Timmins crossbar late in the frame kept the deficit to one, with the Avs carrying a 14-3 shot advantage into the middle stanza.

Gaudreau evened things up with another - you guessed it - powerplay goal early in the second, as Monahan delivered a beautiful pass from the bottom of the circle and No. 13 made no mistake, finishing it off at the near post.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Johnny on the spot.#CGYvsCOL | #Flames


Compher gave the Avs a 3-2 lead off a nifty backdoor feed from Matt Calvert at 12:21, and Rantanen slammed home a one-timer less than five minutes later to make it a two-goal game, but the Flames weren't going quietly.

Who else but the captain - on his 36th birthday, no less - supplied the response, walking in off the left point and going shelf on Grubauer to get the Flames back within a goal at 17:07.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Young. Fresh.#CGYvsCOL | #Flames


The Flames outshot the Avs 14-5 in the third, but were unable to find the equalizer.

Donskoi iced it with an empty-netter at 18:51.




"It was hard to get into the groove of the game for everybody. ... Guys that are penalty-killers are working their tail off and are tied, and guys that aren't penalty-killers are having a hard time getting into the game. Whether you think they're penalties or tired, it's pretty similar for both teams."


"That's a pretty good unit over there. I thought they made good plays and made us pay a couple times. Yeah, we've got to work on our discipline. But we got a few, too, on a our powerplay. ... I thought after the first period, maybe the second was pretty event, and the third was our best. It was our best when it was 5-on-5 hockey."


"They feed off that. They're dangerous on the powerplay. They get a lot of looks and generate momentum. You're in the box that much against a team like that, they're going to bite you."


"He takes a run at one of our guys and sometimes you've got to win the game within the game. You've got to show team toughness. I also felt like our game got better after that moment. It was unfortunate we were unable to find the back of the net after all the chances we created in the third."


"We had some moments 5-on-5, for sure, and the third period was a good example of that. It was a period that we stayed out of the box and were able to get guys moving and skating, and there was a good rhythm to the game."


Video: "We had some moments 5-on-5"



Here were the forward lines and D pairs to start Thursday's game:


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Andrew Mangiapane - Mark Jankowski - Austin Czarnik


Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson


David Rittich

Scratches: Tobi Rieder, Michael Stone



Lindholm - Monahan - Gaudreau


Backlund - Czarnik
Andersson - Brodie



With a goal and an assist tonight, Gaudreau now has 100 multi-point games in his career. … Milan Lucic made his presence felt late in the second period when Avalanche defenceman Nikita Zadorov dropped Austin Czarnik with a questionable hit from behind. Lucic immediately came to his teammate's defence, dropping the gloves and popping the Colorado blueliner with a firm right. The big man picked up a 10-minute misconduct as a result for instigating, but the show of appreciation from the Calgary bench proved what No. 17's addition means to the team.




The Flames are back on action on Saturday as they host the Vancouver Canucks in the Scotiabank Home Opener (8 p.m. Hockey Night in Canada / Sportsnet 960 THE FAN). The Budweiser Pre-Game Party will run from doors open to puck drop with Happy Hour specials available at the concessions from 6 to 7 p.m. During Happy Hour, all FanAttic locations will be offering an additional 10% discount off all regular-priced items with other select items up to 50% off. Fans are encouraged to be in their seat by 8 p.m. to take in the pre-game show, which will include the introduction of your 2019-20 Flames.

Limited tickets remain and are available HERE.

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