The Calgary Flames are locked in a tight playoff race, which made Wednesday night's come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets that much more important.
Entering the contest, interim head coach Geoff Ward's squad was sitting five points behind the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division and, precariously, one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks, who sat in the Western Conference's first wild-card spot; however, they are in control after getting seven of a possible 10 points on their recent five-game road trip and with playing 11 of their last 15 games at home.
They eventually skating away with the victory, but it was not easy. Here are two big takeaways from the Flames' 35th win of the season
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The Flames are not a first-period team
Before the game, Calgary was tied for 21st in the NHL with five teams for the worst goal differential in the first period (minus-7). They ranked 12th for fewest goals scored (55) and 12th for most goals allowed (62).
It was no shock, then, that the Flames trailed 2-0 after the first 20 minutes, with the second goal coming off a turnover in the neutral zone. With the two tallies, the Flames are now tied for second in the NHL for most goals allowed in the first period at home.
"I didn't think we were particularly sharp, as sharp as we needed to be at the start" was how Ward framed it.
— NHL (@NHL) March 5, 2020
Luckily for him, his group picked up the pace in the second and third periods to eke out the OT win. Getting out to better starts will be key for this team; however, it should be noted that the Blues allowed the most goals against in the first period (24) during last year's playoffs — while only scoring 23 — and well, they still won the Stanley Cup.
Cam Talbot should be the starter
Despite allowing the two early goals, Talbot was solid in net again. He stopped 20 of 22 Columbus shots.
That has been the norm of late for the veteran, who since the last edition of the Battle of Alberta on Feb. 1, where he famously fought Edmonton counterpart Mike Smith, ranks second in fewest goals allowed (17) and in the top 20 in save percentage among netminders who have played a minimum of seven games.
Flames' goaltender stats after Feb. 1
Talbot has also posted better numbers compared to All-Star goalie David Rittich since the calendar flipped to 2020 — including two shutouts.
Goaltender stats since Jan. 1
The Flames have played 11 home games since Jan. 1, with Talbot getting the majority of the starts. Although neither goalie has been impressive in front of the Saddledome faithful this calendar year — or the entire season, to be honest — with 10 of the team's last 14 games at home, it would be smart to ride Talbot's hot hand with a playoff berth on the line.
Goaltender stats since Jan. 1 at home