Running Out of Tomorrows
When do the big games end?
Every game until the end of the season is the next biggest game of the year for the Calgary Flames. But it's also not an inexhaustible supply.
The Flames missed a golden opportunity to claw their way back towards the playoff race last night, but surrendered a third period lead for only the first time in 17 games this season, falling 3-2 to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
As they pause for the Olympic break, the Flames are left with only 24 games to play and trailing Vancouver by six points for the eighth and final playoff spot. Worse, the Flames still have to climb over the still wiggling bodies of Dallas and Phoenix to get to the post-season.
The odds are getting long, long, long and losses like last night will soon drive a remorseless stake through the heart of this team.
Leading 2-1 with only seconds to go in the middle period, Flames Igor Kravchuk cross-checked a Duck's face through the crossbar of the Calgary net, giving Anaheim the man advantage to start the third. On the ensuing power play, Pavel Trnka teed up a point shot, which Turek was unable to corral at 1:29. Seconds later, Andy McDonald, who has killed the Flames all year, put the Ducks up for good on a terrific feed from Paul Kariya.
When the Flames look back on this season they might see their fortunes hanging by the width of a post and a crossbar - the two times in the third period, including an instance with only seconds to go, where Jarome Iginla rang the iron in a vain attempt to tie this game and send it into overtime.
But the Flames pulled zero points from this one, leaving them now 23-24-8-3 on the season, good for 57 points and 11th place in the NHL's Western Conference and only one point up on a charging Nashville team.
If there was any good news from this game it was the spectacle of Iginla, showing he's Olympic ready, with a tremendous goal in the first period. Jamie Wright pulled two Duck defenders to himself and popped the puck loose to Iginla who took two strides inside the Anaheim blueline and then ripped a brilliant snap shot past the left shoulder of goaltender Jean Sebastien Giguere. It was Iginla's league-leading 35th of the season and gave the Flame superstar 64 points on the season, a three point bulge over second place Markus Naslund of Vancouver.
Steve Begin had the other Calgary goal, his fifth of the season and fifth point in the last 10 games.
Turek was average in the Calgary net and Anaheim's first two goals were stoppable, suggesting the Calgary netminder, who pulled himself off the Czech Olympic team earlier in the day due to chronic shoulder and elbow problems, might be hurting a little more than advertised.
Regardless of how it happened, a loss is still a loss
Next up are the Olympics - Flames fans can forget the pain for awhile.
||Anaheim Mighty Ducks
1) Matt Cullen - Not a great season for this guy but he found his A game in this one with a goal and an assist.
2) Jarome Iginla - a few inches either way and one goal turns into his first career hat trick.
3) Paul Kariya - looks ready to ditch the Ducks and play with some real hockey players at the Olympics
OF THE GAME
With the Flames up 1-0, Craig Conroy sprang Iginla free on a breakaway late in the first period but Giguere managed to squeeze the pads on the ensuing shot, even though he was frantically looking behind him.
HIT OF THE GAME
A very nice, sneaky and dirty elbow by Iginla as he caught an unsuspecting Sami Pahlsson with his head down at the Calgary blue line late in the second period.
"We (Flames) all thought they got ripped off," said Jarome Iginla on the TEAM960 of David Pelletier and Jamie Sale, the Canadian pair skaters deprived of a gold medal in Salt Lake City. . . . . . Iginla has a entourage going to Salt Lake, including his own parents and the family of his fiancé. . . . . . . Anyone else see Sale doing some guitar rifts last night with the Barenaked Ladies in Salt Lake City? You gotta love the Olympics . . . . . . Play him until he drops in these desperate times. That seems to be the mantra of Flames coach Greg Gilbert who continues to double shift the tireless Iginla, the latter logging 25:07 in ice time. There's plenty of time to rest in the summer. Paul Kariya logged 24:06. The Ducks too are desperate. . . . . . The Flames logged 22 hits on the night, with Bob Boughner setting the example with five. Vitali Vishnevski and Jason York had three each for the Ducks. . . . . . . . Conroy was 65% in the faceoff circle, although his team managed a winning percentage of only 48%. Marc Chouinard was 76% for the Ducks . . . . . . .Accountability caught up with struggling young rearguard Robyn Regehr, confined to street civvies in this one. Regehr has one of the worst plus-minus numbers on the team. Jason Botterill, who was a minus three the previous night in Phoenix, also sat.