- Scott Burnside, NHL
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- In the alternate ending to Game 2 of this second-round playoff series, the Calgary Flames find a way.
In the alternate ending they find a way to get that elusive goal and tie the game and head home with a split in the best-of-seven series.
Because that’s the Calgary way. Right? Has been all season.
Bend but don’t break. Find a way.
Except there was no alternate ending, just the harsh reality of what unfolded Sunday night in Anaheim where Frederik Andersen denied the Flames that all-important goal, turning aside all 30 shots en route to a 3-0 victory, which gave the Ducks a 2-0 series lead with the best-of-seven series set to head to Calgary for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Friday.
The Ducks have now won six straight games this spring and outscored Calgary 9-1 through the first two games of the series, although this one was a markedly different affair than Game 1, which saw the Ducks throttle the Flames 6-1.
Indeed, Sunday’s tilt had a bit of a bizarro feel to it, with the Ducks dominating the first period, outshooting Calgary 20-9, but leading only 1-0 thanks to the heroics of Flames netminder Karri Ramo making his first-ever playoff start.
“If it were not for Karri in the first period, this game would have been over. He gave us a chance,” head coach Bob Hartley said as the Flames prepared to head home to the Saddledome where they are 3-0 this spring.
They’ll need some of that home cooking if they’re going to make a dent in a Ducks team that is on a roll, seemingly capable of winning regardless of the tone or tenor of the game, able to ride out the strange yins and yangs the likes of which were on display in Game 2.
Sunday’s game, for instance, saw the Ducks allow the Flames to gain their equilibrium after the first period for the first time in this series. Trailing by only a goal in spite of looking like a house league team for most of the first period, the Flames used their speed to create chances as the game wore on. There were a few sloppy Anaheim turnovers that resulted in Calgary chances. There were three power-play opportunities.
But the Flames could not get that one goal that would have allowed them to start writing the comeback script they have followed so often during this magical run to the second round.
“If we just get one, it’s a different finish to the game,” lamented Calgary forward David Jones.
Maybe he’s right. And maybe the Flames' strong play over the final 40 minutes of this game combined with home ice will allow them to make this a series.
But what was once again so impressive about the Ducks was their own coolness, their own ability to stay just ahead of the competition no matter the circumstances.
“It was huge. It was huge obviously for us,” said Ryan Kesler, who might have been the Ducks' best forward. "For them, they probably wanted a split and probably a little confidence coming into this building, and we squashed it."
Playing mostly against the Flames' top line of Jiri Hudler, Sean Monahan and either Johnny Gaudreau or David Wolf, Kesler and his linemates Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey allowed little opportunity for that unit to get going.
At the end of the night, Monahan, Gaudreau and Hudler had accounted for just two shots on goal.
Further, it was Kesler saucering a pass to Beleskey 7 minutes, 27 seconds into the game that produced the game’s first goal.
After that the Ducks relied on Andersen to help carry them through the night until Hampus Lindholm provided a long-awaited insurance marker with 8:45 left in regulation with a hard shot that beat Ramo with Corey Perry perhaps creating a little distraction at the side of the Calgary net.
“We knew they were going to get their best push,” Kesler said. "I thought we generated a lot in the first and I thought they came back strong in the second. They threw a lot at Freddie, but Freddie stood tall and threw up a zero for us."
A lesser team might have become frustrated after being stymied by Ramo, but there has been nothing to suggest jitteriness or impatience with this Ducks team six games into this playoff spring, even as the Flames enjoyed their best moments of this still young series.
“I thought Ramo was better than good,” Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau said. And when you have only one goal to show for your efforts for a long time, like into the third period, “you start to worry."
But the worry was for naught, given the strong play of Andersen, who matched Ramo pretty much save for save and then some after the first period.
Funny how these things go but at the start of the playoffs, one of the reasons some experts were not enthused by the Ducks’ playoff chances was goaltending.
But Andersen has been and done everything the Ducks could have asked thus far.
He stopped a breakaway by Josh Jooris early in Game 1 with the score still tied. Then he stopped 21 shots in the final two periods when the Ducks were actually outshot 21-14.
“I think he deserves a lot more credit,” Lindholm said. "He’s a great goalie and he makes those saves when we really need him to make those saves. Today was solid; he really kept us in this game."
The young defenseman is another member of this team whom folks might not have known too much about but will if he keeps up this level of play. His goal gave him a four-game point streak and he is yet another piece to a puzzle that is taking form in front of the hockey world’s eyes.
The Ducks seem to be able to win no matter what the conditions, and take a commanding 2-0 series lead to Calgary after another solid effort.