Flames want less penalties, more 5-on-5 against Ducks in Game 2

Flames want to avoid penalty trouble for Game 2

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was all about the numbers for Calgary in its Game 1 loss to Anaheim.

When the Flames were at even strength or on the power play, they outscored Anaheim by two goals. When they were killing penalties, or gave the Ducks a 3-on-0 break because of a monumentally mistimed line change, they were outscored by three.

Not surprisingly, keeping the numbers in its favour is Calgary’s top priority headed into Game 2 on Saturday night.

“The stuff we did in their end, holding pucks, making plays, I think we were good 5-on-5 and we got to continue to build with that,” Flames centre Sean Monahan said.

The consensus from Flames players on Friday afternoon at Honda Center was that they played well 5-on-5, excluding the “brain cramp” as winger Kris Versteeg described the second-period breakdown that gifted the Ducks a goal and two subsequent penalties that led to Jakob Silfverberg’s winner.

The problem was not enough even-strength hockey for the Flames to capitalize on that advantage, as demonstrated by the limited ice time for their top line of Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Micheal Ferland. They played 3:03 of 5-on-5 hockey together in the opening period as the Flames committed three penalties and saw the ice for just two shifts in the second after Anaheim tied the game at 2.

“The penalties kind of deflated us there,” Gaudreau said. “It’s tough to get guys on the ice when you have that many penalties. Your game kind of gets out of sorts there when you’re not sure when you are going to go out next.”

Monahan, Gaudreau and Ferland were effective in the third, with Gaudreau getting a great look at an equalizer with 17.8 seconds remaining only for Ducks goalie John Gibson to make the save.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan credited Ferland with helping create six scoring chances. Giving that trio more opportunities to operate is a key moving forward.

“What we’ve talked about is our rhythm,” Gulutzan said. “We kind of got out of our rhythm with all the penalties and you could see some of our guys’ ice time was down just because we killed so much, so we addressed that.”

Too many visits to the penalty box also allows the Ducks’ stars to exert a greater influence on the game, and none was bigger than that of captain Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf scored a power-play goal after 52 seconds in the first and masterfully directed the offence with the man-advantage.

Getzlaf closed the regular season with 27 points in his final 18 games, fuelled in part by the decision late in the year to let him handle the point on the power play. That move energized the Ducks’ struggling special teams as the Flames saw Thursday night.

“He’s good all-around but when you give him seven power plays he is going to make you pay,” Flames defenceman Deryk Engelland said.

By minimizing Getzlaf’s impact and maximizing what Monahan, Gaudreau and Ferland can do, the Flames believe they can return home with the series tied up.

“I think we could have controlled our own fate there last night just staying away from the penalties,” Gaudreau said. “We were looking pretty good. Next thing you know, one bad change and then a couple bad penalties, it’s a 3-2 game. Learn from that and hopefully we’re better tomorrow night.”

Said Gulutzan: “We’re positive, we’re upbeat and we’re excited for Game 2.”

NOTES: Goalie Chad Johnson (lower body) was among the small handful of Calgary players who had an on-ice workout Friday afternoon, and Gulutzan said Johnson is “real close” to returning. “I’m expecting sometime in this series he’ll be backing up, for sure,” Gulutzan said. … Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie is eligible to return Saturday after serving a two-game suspension for punching Chicago’s Michal Rozsival.

Dan Greenspan, The Canadian Press

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