Johnny Gaudreau scored a dramatic tying goal with 19.5 seconds left in the third period and Mikael Backlund buried the winner in overtime on a delayed penalty call to lead the Calgary Flames to a stunning 4–3 win over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 on Tuesday night. It was the first loss of the postseason for Anaheim, which still leads the second-round series 2-1.
Here are three thoughts after a game that reminded fans it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
1. It’s time to improve officials’ ability to make correct goal calls.
You have to feel for Frederik Andersen. The Ducks goalie made the most miraculous save of the playoffs and pretty much everyone, including his own team’s Twitter account, thinks he was beaten for a late game-tying goal.
Here’s what happened: Calgary’s Matt Stajan, heading deep into Anaheim’s zone on a hard forecheck, beat Cam Fowler to a loose puck behind the Ducks’ net. He quickly fed it out front to Sam Bennett whose one-timer was repelled by the viper-quick right pad of Andersen.
At least, that’s how the on-ice officials saw it. And after a long look, the NHL’s video review backed them up.
Here’s what the league had to say:
“At 13:43 of the third period in the Anaheim Ducks/Calgary Flames game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine Sam Bennett’s shot at 13:38. Video review was inconclusive in determining whether the puck completely crossed the Anaheim goal line, therefore the referee’s call on the ice stands–no goal Calgary.”
It was by-the-book, exactly as they’re supposed to call it. But here’s the thing: While several angles were in fact inconclusive, both NBC in the U.S. and Rogers in Canada offered a 45 degree view that appeared to show the puck fully across the goal line before Andersen’s pad kicked it out.
Did the Situation Room have access to that angle? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but in the wake of the 2010 Penguins/Flyers scandal, it’s hard to believe they didn’t. So why not accept that angle as proof? Because that camera position is considered flawed. It doesn’t offer complete certainty the way the overhead does. And since the crossbar obscured any evidence the overhead might have provided, the call on the ice was deemed final.
But while they followed protocol, everyone watching from home saw that sliver of white ice between the goal line and the puck and knows the Situation Room got it wrong—and no doubt they know it, too.
Gaudreau’s goal got them off the hook this time, but there’s no denying the flaw in the system. It was one thing when the Flames had a similar call go against them in Game 6 of the 2004 Cup finals when Martin Gelinas appeared to beat Nikolai Khabibulin. But this is 2015. We have the technology. It's time for the league to fix this.
2. The Houdini Flames escaped and made this a series again.
All things being equal, this was a game the Flames had no right winning. They spent most of the night pinned deep in their own zone by Anaheim’s aggressive forecheck, turning over the puck repeatedly and struggling to get it anywhere near Andersen. Karri Ramo allowed three goals on 19 shots in regulation. Calgary won just 19 of 59 face-offs.
And yet the Flames managed to score four goals against Andersen after netting just one in the previous two games combined. They held the Ducks to only three shots in the third period. And they kept kept the contest close enough to stage another one of their signature come-from-behind victories.
It all came down to capitalizing on three bad decisions by Anaheim’s defense.
One was Clayton Stoner’s glove to the mush of Jiri Hudler that sent the tiny Flames forward to the ice, leading to the delayed penalty call and Backlund’s eventual game winner on a blast from the point 4:24 into OT. Hudler’s presence in the crease needed to be addressed but that was about the dumbest way for Stoner to go about it. The refs couldn’t let that one go.
Another was made by Sami Vatanen, who capped off a painfully ineffective game by swatting the puck out of midair into the stands with 1:32 remaining, putting the Flames on the power play. Vatanen’s had an outstanding postseason, but that was a case of a young player unable to keep his cool under pressure. There’s a very good chance he sits out Game 4, allowing grizzled veteran James Wisniewski to draw in.
But the worst decision was made moments earlier by Simon Despres after Matt Stajan cruised full speed through the crease and crushed Andersen. There’s something to be said for sticking up for a teammate, especially a goalie. But Stajan’s interference was so blatant that Despres had to know it would be called, putting the Flames down a man for almost the rest of game and all but ending their hopes of a comeback. Instead, Despres retaliated, negating a potential man advantage and helping set up the eventual five-on-three that led to Gaudreau’s tying goal.
Mental mistakes are part of the game. It’s rare though to see three in such quick succession. And now we have a whole new series.
3. The Ducks still look like the stronger side.
The Ducks won’t be happy with the result of this one, but they can’t complain about the process. Up until the very end their execution was outstanding, led by another smashmouth effort from first liners Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon.
It was Maroon—surprisingly sure-handed in these playoffs—who tied the game for Anaheim in the first period, tapping in a sweet cross-crease apple from Getzlaf. The captain picked up his second assist later in the frame, bullying T.J. Brodie into a turnover, then feeding Maroon who swung behind the net and found Perry alone out front for his sixth goal and his league-leading 14th point of the playoffs.
It was the varsity against the JV when they were on the ice. Too much speed. Too much strength. Too much skill.
Their success so far is the surest indicator that tonight’s game was more of a stumble than a series turning point. Through the first three games, the trio has combined for 30 shots on net and a whopping 17 points. Meanwhile, Calgary’s top unit of Gaudreau, Hudler and Sean Monahan has one goal and eight shots on their ledger.
Ryan Kesler’s line was sharp as well. Kesler won 18 of 24 draws, was credited with four takeaways and made a nice play to set up Matt Beleskey’s third goal of the series.
Clearly, the Ducks didn’t do enough to put the Flames away when they had the chance. But this game may be just what they needed: a reminder to stop playing with their food and finish it off when they have the chance.