Costly Mistakes Haunt Flames

Late Surge Comes Up Empty

February 26th, 2004

How many times have you read this script?

Team goes on a long road trip, finishes with a big win, returns home and promptly comes out flat.

That would be the Calgary Flames last night in showing up a period too late in front of 17,862 disgruntled fans, the locals dropping a 2-1 decision to the front-running Detroit Red Wings, this only two days after a huge and gutty win against the Avalanche in Colorado.

The Wings opened this contest by playing a heady, veteran game, their usual sharp selves and hungry to boot when needed, grinding the largely listless Flames into the ice and eventually taking advantage of two monumental blunders for beautiful counterattack goals of the like that only champions are capable of.

That margin of error proved to be the difference in spite of the Flames gathering steam as the game wore on, outshooting the visitors 27-10 through the final two periods and making things interesting with Chuck Kobasew's goal midway through the third period.

"We can't dial it in every once in a while," said assistant coach Jim Playfair after the game on FAN960. "We have to compete and practice with a sense of urgency every day."

Perhaps the difference in the game, aside from critical turnovers, was Calgary going zero for five on the powerplay, rarely threatening or even causing the Wings to break a sweat.

The loss drops the Flames to 31-24-5-3 on the season for 70 points, Calgary's bid to keep pace in the Western Conference standings suffering a blow as Nashville won and St. Louis tied earlier in the evening, leaving the Flames in seventh place, tied with Los Angeles and only one point ahead of the ninth place Blues.

Calgary may well have handed the Wings this game on a silver platter, Denis Gauthier committing a cardinal sin most veteran defencemen would have expunged from their game by this point in their careers, his pass up the middle of the ice picked off with deft subtlety by Pavel Datsyuk, punched ahead to the already counterattacking Henrik Zetterberg and finished off behind starter Miikka Kiprusoff by Ray Whitney before most Flames could blink an eye at 16:36.

In a choppy second period, Datsyuk picked the pocket of Matthew Lombardi at the Flames blueline, leading to a two on nothing, give and go with Brett Hull and Steve Thomas, the latter beating Kiprusoff at 15:47 of the second.

From there the Flames blitzed the Wings, leading to Kobasew's marker at 12:09 of the third, Josh Green screening Manny Legace as Kobasew powered a shot from the slot.

Calgary had a great opportunity to tie the contest late in the game when Steve Yzerman was caught for high sticking Chris Clark in the face, the third time in the game the Flames winger had drawn a high sticking infraction with his proboscis. Although the Flames came close, a final stretched leg save by Legace in the dying moments sealed the game fatally for Calgary.

It was the fourth time in five games the Flames have scored only a single goal. Not good enough in any league, let along the NHL but also an indication of the level of competition the Flames have faced recently, Ottawa, New Jersey, Colorado and now Detroit, gathering only two of a possible eight points.

Calgary has now dropped five of its last six games and is 5-4 since the All Star break.

"They've got a good young hard working team here that can skate and you saw that in the third period," said Wings Darren McCarty on FAN960 after the game. "They were taking it to us and we were able to hang on. It's always a tough place to play."

It was Detroit's third game in four nights.

Kiprusoff faced 22 Wings shots. Wings were zero for two on the powerplay.

It was the 13th sellout of the season for Calgary, the lone bright spot for the Flames on the evening although not a highlight from the 17,862 who paid money to see their team win.

Next up is Phoenix, yet another must win game.





1) Pavel Datsyuk - gave him an inch and he took a mile, assisting beautifully on the two Wings goals. 

2) Miikka Kiprusoff - No chance on the two goals that got by him and kept the Flames close until they finally decided to compete. 

3) Manny Legace - A third stringer to start the year on this stacked team but probably good enough to be a number one on a lot of teams in the NHL. Made 33 saves for the win.

Andrew Ference gathered steam from a good 50 feet away to explode Tomas Holmstrom against the boards in the Flames end of the ice midway through the first period.

With the Flames committing turnover after turnover and down 1-0 late in the first period, Miikka Kiprusoff kept his inept and undeserving teammates in the game with a miraculous pad save against the grain off Tomas Holmstrom then followed it up seconds later with another great save on Mark Mowers.

Steve Reinprecht was a healthy scratch, or an unhealthy scratch, depending on what speculation you might want to believe. Playfair indicated after the game that Reinprecht was ill. . . . . . No whistles in the first 4:56 of the game . . . . Krzsyztof Oliwa was also a healthy scratch . . . . NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Calgary through the day, meeting with season ticket holders, ownership, sponsers and doing media. . . . . . Somewhere, somehow, the tinkling of modest success is beginning to creep back into Kobasew's way, the confidence beginning to return to a pure sniper. It was his second goal in three games. "I'm just trying to work hard to get to the open ice spots," he said after the game. . . . . . Flames were 56% in the faceoff circle, led by Stephane Yelle at 72% and Craig Conroy at 65%. Zetterberg was 54% for the Wings. . . . . . Jarome Iginla led the Flames with 24:08 in ice time, a rare occurrence when a forward outpaces a defenceman. . . . . . An undermanned Wings defence corp relied on the 29:19 in ice time by Niklas Lidstrom.

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