CALGARY – From the opening shift to the end of the game, it was clear the Calgary Flames were happy to be back home.
Calgary scored on the first shift, and Michael Cammalleri scored twice as the Flames cruised to a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Cammalleri’s first goal gave Calgary a 3-1 lead 13-minute mark of the first period.
“I thought it was nice for us to come out with a high energy start,” said Cammalleri, who was playing in his fourth game after missing the first seven with a hand injury. “(We) just came off a nine or 10-day road trip, quite a lot of travel and I thought it was a testament to the group’s will to win the way that we were able to get going off the start.”
The Flames surprised by starting the season 3-0-2. But things didn’t go as well on a difficult five-game road trip in which they were able to pick up just a single win.
“We ended with two losses and that didn’t feel good for anybody but at the same time, you regroup, you’re excited to come home, excited to play in front of our fans and know that if we can put some wins together we’re right back where we want to be,” said Cammalleri, who also had an assist and has five points (three goals, two assists) on the season.
The Flames big achievement was holding Capitals star Alex Ovechkin to no points for the first time in eight career games against Calgary. In the first seven, he amassed eight goals and seven assists.
“The start, we weren’t ready for it. They jumped on us right away, scored first shift. They had momentum and we kept making mistakes in our zone,” said Ovechkin.
Slow starts have been an issue for the Capitals all season. They’ve been outscored 12-6 in the first period.
“I don’t think we jump in right away. Something has to be happening. We have to score or there needs to be a big play by a goalie,” said Ovechkin. “We were a little sleepy out there tonight.”
Not only did Ovechkin, the NHL’s third leading scorer, get shutout, but so did the Capitals No. 2 ranked power play, which went 0 for 4 against a Calgary penalty kill that entered the night ranked 29th.
“The plan was to not allow (Ovechkin) to get the puck. The only place in the game where it was pretty tough was on the power play. He’s so skilled and playing on the far side, he is basically impossible to cover,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley.
“Karri Ramo had a couple of big saves on him and I thought that 5-on-5, the Stajan line and whoever was playing on D against Ovie did quite a job.”
Also scoring for Calgary (5-4-2) was Kris Russell, Jiri Hudler and Curtis Glencross, with Russell and Dennis Wideman finishing plus-five.
Calgary, which has yet to lose in regulation at the Saddledome (3-0-1), continues its three-game homestand Wednesday night with the Toronto Maple Leafs in town.
Jason Chimera and Aaron Volpatti scored for Washington (5-6-0), which saw its three-game winning streak come to an end. The Capitals have two stops left in a five-game road trip, the in Vancouver on Monday.
It was the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams and for Holtby, the night went similar to the first meeting, when he was pulled 16:22 into the first after three goals on 11 shots and the Capitals down 3-0.
On this night, it was three goals in 12:50 and a 3-1 deficit.
Calgary got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a superb opening shift by the line of Cammalleri with Calgary kids Joe Colborne and TJ Galiardi.
The trio hemmed the Capitals in their end nearly the entire time and the persistent pressure led to Russell’s first goal as a Flame at 1:04.
“We weren’t happy with the way we had come out to start the previous games. We knew that we were behind the 8-ball and we didn’t want to have it happen, especially to a team like this,” Russell said. “We did a good job of really making sure we were focused from the start and ready for that first shift.”
The shot onslaught continued and was up to 11-2 in Calgary’s favour at 7:24 after red-hot Hudler converted Sean Monahan’s rebound. Hudler leads the Flames with 13 points and has points in 10 of Calgary’s first 11 games.
“We’re going to have to realize as a group that we have to do something before the game to make sure we’re prepared because the majority of the games we’re losing, it’s because of the first period,” said Holtby.
“It’s nothing to do with systems, it’s nothing to do with what the coaching staff can do, it’s what we do as professional athletes, professional hockey plays. You prepare yourself and we’re not doing a good enough job in here.”
Ramo finished with 27 saves to even his record at 2-2-1. Holtby suffered the loss and is 4-5-0.
Notes: Calgary was without Lee Stempniak. Riding a five-game scoring streak (three goals, two assists), Stempniak was out with a lower-body injury. Already on the sidelines for the Flames and missing his third game was captain Mark Giordano (lower body) … Derek Smith, who played Friday night with Abbotsford (AHL), caught an early flight and played his first game of the year … Nate Schmidt picked up his first point with an assist on Volpatti’s goal … In a Budweiser promotion, 3,000 red helmets with red lights on the top were given out to fans sitting behind the nets. They turned on the lights for Flames goals.