Canes Ride Third to Win

Turek Miscues and Missed Chances Seal Fate 

December 12th, 2002
Rick Charlton

AP Photo

Bury Them Chances: Craig Berube's wide open net was one of numerous opportunities squandered in a 4-3 loss to Carolina

It was supposed to be Arturs Irbe's night to show how a ham-fisted, puck fumbling netminder can turn certain victory into defeat.

Irbe, legendary in NHL's circles as probably the worst puck-handling goaltender in the game, was upstaged last night by Calgary starter Roman Turek, who's wanderings yielded two empty net goals to a Carolina team that had spent the first two periods looking like it was ready to be beat.

But the Hurricane, no doubt surprised to find themselves in a tie game after being outshot 31-16 through two periods, stepped up their game in the third period with Ron Francis eventually scoring the winner at 12:42 in rounding up a 4-3 win over the Flames in front of 14,528 Saddledome witnesses.

The loss ended a modest three game Calgary undefeated string and left the Flames at 8-14-4-3 on the year, good for 23 points in the standings but a large eight points clear of a playoff spot in the NHL's Western Conference.

Worse, Calgary's home record drops to an abysmal 2-7-4-1. Were the Flames even at a still unacceptable .500 pace on home ice they might be challenging for a playoff spot right now. Instead they're fourth from the bottom in a 30 team league.

The unfortunate consequence is this was a game the Flames likely should have won going away, taking advantage of a Carolina team playing its second in as many nights with Calgary for the most part controlling the play through the opening 40 minutes.

A 2-1 Flames lead supplied by rookie Oleg Saprykin and Craig Conroy evaporated when Turek moved behind his net but was stripped of the puck by Jan Hlavac, the latter poking it to Jeff O'Neil, the latter surprised by an open net and drawing the Hurricane even at 16:41 of the first.

Chris Drury then put the Flames ahead 3-2at the 11 minute mark with a rocket from the point on a Calgary power play, marking only the second time in 16 games the Flames had scored more than two goals in a game.

But another Flames powerplay proved fatal, Drury and Toni Lydman colliding at centre ice and, almost in slow motion, you could see the squirrels in Turek's head arguing with each other as to whether or not he could win the race to the open puck with Carolina's Bates Battaglia.

The squirrels came up with the wrong answer.

Turek vacated his net, Battaglia hit the accelerator and from there it was no contest, the Carolina forward corralling the puck, sweeping around the startled Flames netminder and backhanding the puck home at 13:44, less than three minutes after Drury's go-ahead marker.

In fairness, Battaglia likely would have had a breakaway in any event with Drury and Lydman stumbling over themselves. It was the sixth shorthanded marker surrendered by the Flames this season.

Francis then scored the game winner at 12:42 of the third period while standing alone in a crowd of Flames, all of whom were mesmerized by the puck-carrier O'Neill behind the net rather than taking care of the danger area. A quick pass from O'Neill into the slot and Francis scored after corralling the puck for a milli-second.

Turek had been a major reason the Flames had gone undefeated in the previous three but was the primary culprit in throwing this one away.

Turek stopped 19 of 23 Carolina shots while Irbe thwarted 32 of 35 Calgary drives.

Flames were one for five on the power play - but guilty of the shorthanded marker described above - while Calgary's penalty-kill continued to impress, stopping all three Carolina man-advantage opportunities and now ranked eighth overall in the NHL.

Next up is Colorado at the Saddledome on Saturday.



Carolina Hurricanes 4
Calgary Flames 3

Saprykin Johansson Drury
Wright Conroy Nichol
Gelinas Yelle Clark
Berube Begin Sloan
Lydman Regehr
Montador Gauthier
Buzek Boughner

1 Ron Francis - Never a speed demon but you don't have to be if you know where to be at the right moment. Scores the game winner while standing in a crowd of Flames.

2 Oleg Saprykin - Now all the way back from purgatory and showing he belongs in the NHL, a threat all night.

3 Jesse Wallin - Recognition of an unsung element, a physical force from the moment the opening puck was dropped even if it took his teammates a couple of periods to show up.

This must be what it's like in the Land of the Giants. There was 5' 6" Arturs Irbe first raising 5' 7" Scott Nichol's voice with a chop to the nether regions then, with the Flames forward doubled over in pain, Irbe delivered a left to the back of the head to drive Nichol to the ice. It had Bruce Lee written all over it.

With the Flames jumping into a 3-2 lead in the second period, Irbe held his team close with a doorstep save on Martin Gelinas and then killed a quick close-in one-timer from Nichol

Carolina's Brett Hedican went down with a second period injury, never to re-appear . . . . . . Jarome Iginla missed his second straight game with a hip flexor/groin injury, although the Flames played pretty well in his absence. Naturally, a cynic might point out that the Flames have been playing without Iginla much of the year anyway, or at least the Iginla they had last year. The best thing the team can do is let Iginla heal properly so he can retrieve his game. . . . . .Rob Niedermayer is gone for as long as two weeks with a knee strain. The Flames forward had been playing his strongest hockey since his arrival here two summers ago . . . . .Jordan Leopold is near being cleared to play. . . . . . Jamie Wright returned to the lineup after a five week absence . . . . . . Chuck Kobasew was a healthy scratch again . . . . . No surprise here - Toni Lydman led the Flames in ice time at 25:19. Sean Hill led the Hurricane with 25:08 . . . . . . Calgary was 62% in the faceoff circle, led by 60% from Mattias Johansson. Ron Francis was 60% for the Hurricane, the only centre they had above 40%
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