Late Goal Lifts Blues Back to Playoff Spot

Broken Stick and Broken Hearts Before Break

February 5th, 2004

If you had told any Calgary Flame in October they would be heading into the February All Star break tied with the St. Louis Blues, to a man they would have taken that with beaming smiles, clicking heels and hands clapping.

Yet a feeling of gloom pervaded the Pengrowth Saddledome last night as the Flames failed to bury the trailing Blues in their wake, dropping a 2-1 decision on a late goal by Scott Mellanby, St. Louis using the decision to vault into an improbable four way tie for fifth place in the NHL's zany Western Conference.

In this critical five game homestand, the Flames have picked up only three of a possible eight points, not good enough considering the road heavy homestretch schedule facing them after the weekend break for the All Star game in Minneapolis.

Calgary drops to 26-20-6-3 on the year for 60 points, tied with St. Louis, Nashville and Los Angeles and still in a playoff spot in spite of themselves, the Kings on the outside looking in from ninth spot by virtue of fewest wins.

Not bad . . . . but it could have been more, a clear hold on sixth spot at the All Star break if they had delivered a win.

Or a tie.

For the Flames the critical let-down in this game was an ineffective - nay, non-existent - powerplay that failed to generate any offence at key moments in this game, particularly in the final minutes with Calgary trailing and desperate for any kind of shot count against Blues goaltender Chris Osgood, winner of only one of his previous 15 starts.

Osgood had given up 11 goals on his last 68 shots entering the game but was good enough for 19 saves in gaining the win.

Flames finished the game with only two shots on five powerplays and only nine shots in the final forty minutes . . . . . and that was effectively the game.

The Blues caught a lucky break on the winning goal, Dean McAmmond breaking his stick on the play allowing Mellanby to scoot into the open for a blistering one timer off the post and behind beleaguered Calgary starter Roman Turek at 15:45 of the third period.

For Turek this was a coming out of some sorts, providing the Flames with a solid if unspectacular game on 24 saves, the kind of start that had been all too absent in his two week, nine game comeback from a knee injury, his earlier indifferent play drawing a spectacular amount of vitriol from fans inside and outside of the Dome.

There were no boos for Turek on this night and even a few cheers, particularly in the first period with the shot clock leaning 11-2 in favour of the Blues.

That, at least, was a modest start at redemption for the expensive netminder who faces the return of fan favourite and December NHL Defensive Player Of The Month, Miikka Kiprusoff.

"He was under a lot of pressure," said Flames goaltending coach David Marcoux of Turek on FAN960's post-game show. "He was very good tonight. He did stop a lot of shots in the first period, six quality shots in the first period alone. He kept us in there."

For Calgary this can only be described as an opportunity lost, St. Louis having played the night before in Edmonton and winless in eight.

"It was a disappointing effort," said Marcoux of a third period in which the Flames mustered only two shots. "We were hoping for a better situation at the end of this game. The Blues players were playing back to back games but they had a bit of juice left to them at the end."

Calgary has only one win in six starts in games in which they are rested and playing an opponent which had been in action the night before.

Keith Tkachuk opened scoring on the type of goal that has killed the Flames in recent weeks, two Calgary defenders concentrating on one opponent while the other springs loose in a scramble, this time Tkachuk whiffing a backhander over Turek at 8:35 of the second.

But Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovon combined on a pretty rush at 13:41, Donovan passing from close quarters to McAmmond in the slot who whiffed a quick wrist shot over Osgood's sweeping glove to even the score.

Next up is . . . . a break, a weekend this mentally tired team desperately needs to gather its thoughts for the final stretch run.

In addition, the Flames can also use the physical break, a team that hasn't been physically punishing teams on the forecheck as it was earlier in the year.

It won't get easier. Only tougher.

The weak will be left behind.






1 Scott Mellanby - Crotchety old veteran continues to produce, Johnny-on-the-spot with a a great, clutch, one-timer for the winner. 

2 Keith Tkachuk - He killed the Flames as a Jet and he keeps killing them as a Blue. Solid and mean all night. 

3 Roman Turek - With the Blues buzzing the confused Flames in the first period, Turek kept his team in it . . . and that's all you could ask.

With the Blues up 1-0 and swarming the Flames, Eric Boguniecki accepted a pass from the corner and wired a shot bound for the top corner on Turek but a "Large" glove arrived just in time to keep the score close. A few shifts later, McAmmond tied the it for the Flames

Mike Danton thought he was still Mike Jefferson for a few minutes after being driven head first into the boards at the St. Louis bench by Chuck Kobasew five minutes into the game, the latter drawing a five minute major for his indiscretion.

It was Darryl Sutter's 750 career game as an NHL coach . . . . Flames were slaughtered for much of the night in the faceoff circle, losing 74% of first period faceoffs and eight of nine in their own zone. Doug Weight ended up at 74% for the Blues who were 56% on the night. Craig Conroy was 60% for the Flames. . . . . Jarome Iginla with 24:10 and Jordan Leopold with 24:07 were the ice time leaders for Calgary. Chris Pronger was 26:57 for the Blues. . . . . . "Miikka Kiprusoff - his health is not a problem any more," said Marcoux after the game, suggesting the only touch remaining is regaining his sharpness via practice.

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