After all the media circus surrounding this game, I suppose it is appropriate that both of the captains were relatively silent and one of the teams broke down completely and allowed 3 goals in 57 seconds. While the Flames and Leafs have both proven that they are capable of letting in 3 goals so fast, it was the Leafs that found themselves down 4-1 so suddenly. By the end of the 3rd period Calgary had it’s 6th consecutive win at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-2 final score.
Nikolai Kulemin opened the scoring for the Maple Leafs 6 minutes into the first period, but the lead didn’t last long. Less than a minute later Mikael Backlund scored his 4th of the season to tie the game at ones. The game remained tight for the rest of the first period and much of the second thanks to great goaltending from J.S. Giguerre and Miikka Kiprusoff. Both goalies stood on their heads, keeping their teams in the game until 15:17 of the second period when everything unravelled.
After being stymied several times in a row, the Calgary Flames finally found a hole in Giguerre to go ahead 2-1. Former Leaf, Matt Stajan, fed a perfect pass to Alex Tanguay in front of the net. Tanguay wasted no time ripping the puck past the Toronto netminder. Twenty-three seconds later Mikhail Grabovsky took a penalty which resulted in a Flames goal a few seconds after the next face-off. Rene Bourque capped off the 3-goals-in-57-seconds with a short-side snap shot that beat Giguerre and sneaked inside the post.
The tone of the crowd and the tone of the tweets changed significantly at this point. Most of the Leafs fans, who hadn’t been shy to trumpet their belief that Toronto got the better end of the Phaneuf and Aulie for Hagman, Stajan, White and Meyers trade, were silenced within seconds as the Flames went up 4-1. The “thanks for taking our losers and giving us 2 of our last 3 captains” talk ended pretty quickly, which isn’t surprising. What was surprising was the impact (or lack of impact) that all these players had on the game.
Dion Phaneuf, who is known as much for his defensive breakdowns as his hard shot, ended the game at +1. He was on the ice for Kulemin’s goal, but did not register a single point in the game. Niklas Hagman scored a goal and added an assist for the Flames and generally played a very good game. Matt Stajan, who watched the last few Flames games from the press box, missed a wide open net, but was instrumental in the Flames offensive burst with the big assist on Tanguay’s goal.
The big surprise in this game was Olli Jokinen, who silently continues to produce in the offensive zone. He scored once and added assists on Bourque and Hagman’s goals. Though he had a bit of trouble finding the back of the net in the second period he finally vindicated himself with his powerplay goal. I’m still not a big fan of the Finn, but at least he’s playing like a guy that was once the captain of an NHL team.
So the first big game after last year’s blockbuster trade is finally over. The jury is still out, but I’m sticking to my guns and saying that Calgary won this trade. That’s not to say that the Leafs lost, but as a Flames fan I’m happy we made the trade. We got some solid players in exchange for sloughing off a player that was having a majorly negative impact on the Flames. Dion needed to go to a new team and he’s probably fitting in much better in Toronto than he would be here. He’s able to be a vocal leader for the young guys on the Leafs and as long as he stays away from his teammates’ wives and girlfriends, everything should be OK.