A game that featured more than a few lucky bounces for the Flames – i.e. a goal off of Michael Frolik’s pants – was supplemented by another outstanding performance by Saddledome fan-favourite “Big Save Dave.”
David Rittich stood tall and made 32 stops on route to the 5-3 win, with many of them coming against the NHL’s most dangerous top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
Coming into the game, the trio had already eclipsed 180 combined points, and they looked dangerous once again at the Dome, racking up 23 of the Avalanche’s 35 shots on net.
The storylines heading into the night may have been about a showdown between two of the NHL’s top three lines, (with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Elias Lindholm not far behind MacKinnon’s group) but it quickly became all about the Flames’ Czech net-minder.
Rittich looked confident and healthy, after an injury scare last week caused him to miss two games on the road, and he was – deservedly – the game’s first star.
His performance, along with another 3-point night by Flames’ captain Mark Giordano, was enough to beat a sliding Av’s team; despite only firing 16 shots on net.
Throughout the contest the Flames looked unable to handle the speed of their opponents, and giveaways in the neutral zone led to a number of dangerous attempts by Colorado on the counter-attack. That, along with zone entries and one-on-one battling drills, was the focus on Thursday at Flames’ practice.
“I know we’re capable of better.”
In a 50-minute session, Head coach Bill Peters looked to clean things up and preach “attention to detail,” which he believes was missing in the last couple of games.
“We gave up a little more than we would have liked,” Peters said, “we didn’t exactly manage the puck perfectly the last two games. That’s where our troubles started… was the fact we didn’t have it and we’d turn it over and now we’re on defence …I know we’re capable of better.”
The message was received loud and clear, throughout the locker room; Rittich may have been the star of the game on Wednesday, but he still believes there’s a lot of work left to do.
“We have a great amount of points, but there’s still a lot of hockey in front of us,” said Rittich, who also told the media that he’s proud of the way the Flames seem to find different ways to win.
Of note on Thursday, Matthew Tkachuck was absent from the practice. Peters said afterwards that it was just a maintenance day for the forward – who scored his 20th goal of the season on Wednesday – and he expects him to play on Friday.
Winners in four of their last five games, and sitting comfortably atop the Pacific Division, the Flames will look to keep things rolling tonight in game two of a five-game home stand.
The Florida Panthers (17-17-8) visit the Saddledome for a 7:00pm puck drop on Friday night.
Florida will look to halt a four-game losing skid.
-Danica Ferris-Cindy Letic