I knew the Flames would lose this game the second the Sportsnet broadcast compared the first two games of the team’s four-game road trip to the infamous six-game trip from last season that saw them win all six and outscore their opponents something like 25-16 (of course they ignored the fact that none of those six teams made the playoffs last year. That was neither here nor there). Calgary had, after all, beaten St. Louis in overtime and shut out the so-so Rangers.
What, then, could possibly go wrong against a team like the Canadiens that are, y’know, good? Oh, right, the Calgary Flames played after winning two in a row and coming off a dominant performance. Any time this year the Flames have played a good opponent after a dominant performance, they have lost because they just don’t show up every night.
Tonight, in a 4-1 loss to Montreal that, coupled with a Canucks win, saw them drop out of first place in the Northwest, the Flames were victimized by not only an outstanding performance by Canadiens backup Jaroslav Halak, but also their own disappointing lack of hockey sense and puck luck.
Halak saw 14 shots in the first period and stopped all of them, which, based upon the quality of those shots, was the only reason it wasn’t 3-1 through 20 minutes. Instead, Robert Lang scored off a goofy bounce on a centering feed that hit Mark Giordano’s leg and got behind Kiprusoff.
The second bad bounce came in the second period when a shot from Calgary’s point hit a shinpad and bounced back to center ice like it had been shot out of a cannon to spring Matt D’Agostini for a breakaway and his fourth goal in as many career NHL games. Dustin Boyd pulled the Flames back within one just over two minutes later but Lang added an insurance goal to double the Montreal lead late in the period.
But when Calgary got a power play early in the third, the game was officially put out of reach by Calgary’s own stupidity. A Habs forward broke his stick while on the PK, but instead of forcing the puck to that side and trying to draw him out to the point and create space in front of the net, Calgary kept it on the strong side and passed back and forth between the point and the man on the halfboards before eventually sending it down low. Not the worst idea in the world but it should’ve been on the other side of the ice. However, when the puck comes down low, the other Canadiens forward trips a Calgary player to draw a 5 on 3.
And this is where the insane part comes in. With 28 seconds left in the original penalty, instead of giving Montreal the puck or putting something low at the net to hope for a scrum, a rebound or Montreal control, Todd Bertuzzi backs out and tries to uncork one from a goofy angle, only to see the puck sail about a mile high and wide and bounce out of the zone and to center ice. At this point, it still doesn’t occur to the Flame that retrieved it to just give the puck to Montreal. Instead, all six Flames CLEAR THE ZONE and regroup for a rush down the center of the ice that somehow doesn’t get a shot on net. By this time, Alex Tanguay, who took the original penalty, has come out of the box and is the first Hab to touch the puck. The game was lost right there. The fact that Andrei Markov scored 39 seconds after Montreal killed the second penalty was just hilarious salt-rubbing.
This was just another game Calgary simply wasn’t prepared for and, no matter how well they played on Sunday or Friday, you have to come to play against good opponents. I would’ve thought Calgary got that note by now, but they pull this all the time. Oh and Detroit’s tomorrow night? Yeah, that should go well.
Philadelphia 4, New York Islanders 3
Remember when everyone was laughing about how bad the Flyers were earlier this year and how they didn’t win a game for what felt like five or six weeks? Not so much now. Jeff Carter scored his 20th goal, Simon Gagne scored his 14th and the white-hot Flyers are 7-1-2 in their last 10. They’re only three points back of a home ice spot. The Flyers! What a crazy, insane turnaround. They were 4-6-3 in their first 13 games, and have now earned points in 13 of their last 14. Their only regulation loss since in more than a month was to Toronto. How is no one talking about this?
Vancouver 3, Nashville 1
Pavol Demitra picked up his first goal in eight games and Curtis Sanford made 21 saves to get the win. But the real story was a seven-minute Canucks power play in which they ATTEMPTED 12 shots but only put three on net and turned the puck over twice. It was hysterical. However, after 13 minutes of power play time, Alex Edler finally scored a man-up goal early in the third and all was right again.
Colorado 6, Los Angeles 1
Talk about a steamrolling. Colorado scored the first six goals of the game in 31:18 and eased off the gas. Oskar Moller scored the only goal for LA. Big shock of the night: Jason LaBarbera gave up six goals on 26 shots. Who saw that coming?