The Ducks bounced back from their first loss of the 2015 playoffs by ruining the Scotiabank Saddledome’s spotless record on Friday night, handing the Flames their first home loss of the postseason with a 4–2 victory in Game 4. Matt Beleskey’s power-play goal early in the third period proved to be the game-winner for the top-seeded Ducks, who return to Anaheim with a 3–1 series lead and a chance to lock in a Western Conference Finals matchup with the Blackhawks in Game 5 on Sunday night.
Three thoughts on the game that sent the never-say-die Flames to the brink of elimination:
1. Getting into a shoving match with the Ducks is a dangerous game
For the Flames, Games 3 and 4 were as much about matching the Ducks’ effort as they were about winning at home in the wake of two blowout losses in Anaheim. As the game settled into a grinding pace after the frantic opening minutes, the Ducks had the muscle to respond in kind to Calgary’s primary irritants.
The post-whistle scuffles increased as the night wore on, culminating in a second-period scrum around Flames goaltender Karri Ramo that resulted in a pair of coincidental minor penalties. The Ducks entered the night with the best power play success rate among teams still standing in the playoffs and went 2-for-4 with the man advantage in Game 4, proving they’re too dangerous to take liberties with in the spirit of sending a message.
Flames center Joe Colborne was whistled for a high-sticking double minor after finishing his ill-advised check on Francois Beauchemin at the end of the second period. As a result, the Ducks got a power play for the first four minutes of the third and a fresh sheet of ice to work with. Left unmarked after setting up shop in the slot, Beleskey banged home a rebound to put Anaheim ahead for good. Beleskey has scored in every game of the series and is now second only to Corey Perry for the team lead in goals this postseason.
2. Johnny Gaudreau giveth, and Johnny Gaudreau taketh away
Maybe it should be a surprise that Gaudreau hasn’t shown his age more often during the Flames’ improbable playoff run. The 21-year-old Calder Trophy finalist added to his team-leading point total on Friday night but mixed in a few inexcusable mistakes with the highlight-reel moves that have become commonplace.
The Flames responded quickly after Jakob Silfverberg’s power-play tally opened the scoring, thanks to a beautiful individual effort by Gaudreau. The diminutive winger darted his way into the Anaheim zone and crossed up defenseman Hampus Lindholm to work his way to the front of the net. Gaudreau couldn’t reach back far enough to stuff a shot past Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, but Sean Monahan was there to clean up the rebound for his third goal of the playoffs.
The swagger and stick skills that set up that chance backfired in the second period, just after the Flames had built some momentum with a strong penalty kill to protect their 2–1 lead. Andrew Cogliano poked the puck off Gaudreau’s stick as he was trying to carry it out from deep in his own end, got it back from Kyle Palmieri and slipped a shot through Ramo’s five-hole to tie the score at 2–2 with just 3:18 left until the intermission.
It was the kind of puck control display Gaudreau regularly emerges from unscathed, but the Ducks took advantage of that flair to retake control of the game.
3. A strong night between the pipes for Andersen
Anaheim’s 25-year-old netminder gave up two goals on the first five shots he faced on Friday but settled in to stop the final 22 without incident, making a handful of stellar saves that helped diffuse the effects of Calgary’s early possession advantage and keep the Ducks within striking distance. His best of the night was a desperation glove save that took away an open net from Gaudreau as the Flames rookie closed in on a rebound, preserving a one-goal deficit early in the second period and stifling one of Calgary’s last great presses before the Ducks tilted the ice back their way.
Andersen hasn’t had to be stellar this postseason matched up against Calgary’s lackluster duo of Ramo and Jonas Hiller (and Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec before that), but his 7-1 record is starting to speak for itself.