Flames Lose On Ice and With NHL

Oliwa Likely To Face Music In Wake of Loss To Nashville 

March 20th, 2004

The expectation before this one even started is that it would be "a disciplined war" in the words of assistant coach Jim Playfair.

It didn't quite measure up to the "disciplined" part.

Beaten soundly on the ice, the Calgary Flames went out of their way to take out their frustrations in the alley last night in a 3-1 loss to Nashville in front of 18,349 fans at the Saddledome.

Barely wiggling a leg to indicate they were alive in fading badly in the second half of this game, coach Darryl Sutter decided to check the pulse of his team with only three seconds remaining, loading the ice with tough guys to initiate a line brawl that saw both teams risking their star goaltenders in fisticuffs at centre ice.

Although penalized and theoretically a man short, Sutter put out a full five skaters to start the final moments of this contest, knowing full well what was likely to happen and appearing to egg it on.

The final clue might have been Robyn Regehr, the burly Calgary defenceman, taking the final faceoff, likely his only faceoff of the season and maybe the only one of his career.

The potential target of this fray, Predators forward Jordan Tootoo, was removed from the ice by Nashville coach Barry Trotz before the faceoff, leaving Scott Hartnell, the tough, hard-hitting Predator centre to face the music, having to fight Robyn Regehr and then Rhett Warrener in sequence while star goaltenders Tomas Vokoun and Miikka Kiprusoff, stopping hearts in Tennessee and Calgary alike, duked it out in the middle of the ice.

"There was a lot of chirping going on at the end of the game," said a moderately amused Warrener after the game on FAN960. "There is a bit of history between these two teams. It boiled over at the end."

The confrontation ended in a theatrical screaming match between Trotz and the duo of Sutter and his assistant coach Rich Preston.

In their last visit to Calgary, Tootoo had taken "liberties" with Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, with some hints of redemption flowing from the Calgary dressing room thereafter.

Although the teams had battled to a close 4-4 tie in Nashville a week ago, this was the first encounter, the first moment, where some revenge might have been exacted.

Of concern for the Flames will be the tossing of a linesman to the ice by Krzyzstof Oliwa as he was escorted out of the fray as well as the apparent intent to incite by the Calgary coach, both probably under review at NHL headquarters by chief disciplinarian Colin Campbell before the teams even hit the dressing rooms.

It seems likely Calgary will face some suspensions, Oliwa receiving two game misconducts and Sutter probably fingered as the bully.

The league office is unlikely to be amused with all of this coming as it does hard on the heels of the Todd Bertuzzi fiasco.

Amid all the ruckus in a game already lost, had you listened carefully enough, facing north and cupping your ear to the prairie wind, you may have heard a a moaning yowl of frustration from the direction of Edmonton.

Little more than 24 hours after vaulting themselves officially into playoff contention with a miraculous and gutty performance in a 5-4 victory over Nashville, the Oilers were likely watching in horror as all their hard earned gains went swirling down the toilet in Calgary.

Although the Flames vaulted into an early 1-0 lead, it was the Predators showing their mettle in breaking a seven game winless streak at a decisive moment in the season, their victory in Calgary elevating them to a four point advantage over the idle Oilers with only seven games remaining in a rapidly fading season, Predators also vaulting St. Louis into seventh place after the Blues lost in Dallas earlier in the day.

"They're always a tough team to play against," said Warrener. "They skate hard, they forecheck hard, they work hard."

For Calgary, the loss broke a seven game undefeated streak but left them with a still considerable seven point cushion over ninth place Los Angeles in the run for playoff contention in the NHL's wild Western Conference, the Kings also falling this night against Detroit.

In other words, not much skin off the knuckles for Calgary in losing this one but it removes Nashville just that much more as a target for the Oilers, Edmonton now confronting a challenging schedule and a still sizeable hill to climb to catch St. Louis.

But enough about them.

The loss left the Flames 38-27-7-3 on the season, good for 86 points and a lock on sixth place in the NHL's combative Western Conference.

Flames opened scoring at 3:23 of the first period on a power play, Jarome Iginla with a delicate deflection of a Steve Montador point shot, the Calgary captain pulling within one goal of league leader Ilya Kovalchuk in the battle for the NHL's Rocket Richard Trophy.

But Nashville drew even with only 5/10ths of a second remaining in the period, Hartnell drilling Denis Gauthier into the end boards, the Predators winning the resulting scrum and Hartnell backing out enough to one-time a pass through the pads of Calgary starter Miikka Kiprusoff.

Through a period largely dominated by the Predators, Martin Erat finally vaulted the visitors into a 2-1 lead when he came from behind the net and caught Kiprusoff falling away from the post, lifting the puck over the Calgary netminder at 17:45.

The Flames were stuffed badly by the Predators through the final 40 minutes, Calgary generating only 11 shots, including just two in the final period.

Nashville outshot the Flames 31-21 and were zero for five on the powerplay while Calgary scored once on three extra man opportunities.

Next up is Dallas on Monday.





1) Scott Hartnell - The Nashville on ice leader scored a decisive tying goal in the final second of the first period after a big hit in the Calgary zone, then had two fights to end it. 

2) Tomas Vokoun - Not much to do in the second half of this game but kept his team close in the first period when the Flames were dominating. And a fight. 

3) Rhett Warrener - tough in front of his net all through the night and one of the chosen few for combat as the final buzzer sounded.

A quick pass from the left of the net from Craig Conroy found Jarome Iginla in the slot for a quick one-timer, a flashing left pad save by Vokoun keeping the Predators even at 16:30 of the second period. Shortly after Martin Erat scored to give Nashville the lead and the Flames barely threatened.

Jordan Tootoo was target Numero Uno throughout the night, signalled first by Mike Commodore exploding the diminutive Nashville winger at the Calgary bench midway through the first period, only the first of several pummellings he would receive throughout the evening.

"I think its going to be a war," said assistant coach Jim Playfair on FAN960 before the game began. That's why he's paid the big bucks. He knows what's going to happen before it does. . . . . Chris Clark had three shots in the first period . . . . . "I've only got a few more months to go," said Don Cherry on Coaches Corner tonight, perhaps referring to the season or referring to his career as he ran into some technical difficulties. A innocent comment or a cryptic slip? . . . . . How important was this game to Nashville? The wobbly Mark Eaton, an injured scratch in Edmonton, threw on the skates and led the Predators in ice time with 24:17. Flames were led by Regehr with 24:27. . . . . . Flames were 54% in the faceoff circle, led by Stephane Yelle's 61%. Greg Johnson was 64% for the Predators. . . . . . Andrew Ference and Oleg Saprykin drew out of the lineup as healthy scratches. . . . . . Calgary had its seventh straight sellout. . . . . .

Simon Conroy Iginla 
Neiminen Nilson Donovan 
Gelinas Yelle Clark 
Oliwa Lombardi Kobasew

Gauthier Warrener 
Commodore Montador 
Regehr Leopold


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