CALGARY – The Calgary Flames’ first taste of three-on-three in the NHL pre-season was short and sweet.
The Flames took advantage of tired Vancouver Canucks players who couldn’t get off the ice to change and Calgary defenceman Kris Russell scored at 1:35 into overtime on Friday.
Before the NHL incorporates three-on-three hockey into overtime this regular season, 45 pre-season games will have a five-minute, three-on-three extra period tacked on regardless of the score.
After beating the Canucks 4-1 in regulation, the Flames were introduced to the new format Friday.
It was the second go-around with it for the Canucks, who played the full five minutes of three-on-three Tuesday because neither Vancouver nor the San Jose Sharks scored in their overtime.
Rushes of speed up and down open ice should generate exciting momentum swings and highlight-reel saves by the goalies, but teams have to figure out in these exhibition games how to best exploit and defend the extra ice.
“It’s just like a saloon door. It flops on both sides,” Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. “It’s one mistake and you’re in trouble.”
Russell blew by exhausted Canucks winger Linden Vey to end overtime early.
“I think puck possession is going to be a big key in that and little things like winning faceoffs because there’s so much ice and you can’t really get chasing on the defensive side,” the Flames defenceman said.
“We’re going to have to work hard at it and be well-conditioned in those kinds of situations. That’s our first taste. There’s rule changes every year, one or two tweaks that we’ve got to as a group adjust to and make sure we’re on the winning end because it’s huge points right?”
The Flames and Canucks are scheduled to play another three-on-three overtime in Saturday’s pre-season rematch in Vancouver.
“It’s pretty clear that you better win faceoffs on three-on-three or you’re going to be chasing the puck for a while,” Flames centre Sean Monahan said. “It’s fun and I think it will limit shootouts.”
“I’m not a big fan of the shootouts. It’s not a good way to win a game after battling so hard.”