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Flames Blow One on Broadway
Rangers 4 Flames 2

Kris Fernet
January 10, 2006

Calgary starts a quick three game road trip tonight in Madison Square Gardens.  It is the first time the Flames have played in New York in two years.  That game on January 5, 2004 saw the Flames beat up the Rangers 5–0.  A lot has changed for both teams in those two years. 

Back at the start of 2004 Calgary was heading into the second half of the season clinging to hopes of hosting a playoff game for the first time in seven years.  They had completed a very successful December going 10-3-2 and were starting to show their beleaguered fans some glimmer of hope.  The Rangers, on the other hand, were in the middle of another abysmal season that they finished with just 69 points.

Fast forward to 2006.  After an unexpected playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 the Flames have become one of the elite teams in the NHL.  The go into tonight’s game in 1st place in the Northwestern Division and 3rd in the Western Conference.  A rejuvenated Rangers squad sits 5th in the Eastern Conference with a record 11 games above 0.500.

Tonight’s game is a solid match-up between two similar teams with a very different approach.

On The Line

Calgary needs to shake off the disappointment from a Saturday night meltdown against Division rivals the Vancouver Canucks.  The Flames blew a two goal lead in the third period and lost 4-3 in overtime.  The Rangers are coming off an impressive 4-0 win over the struggling Florida Panthers.

The Flow

Neither team jumped out to a particularly stunning start.  There was a feeling that the unfamiliar teams were testing out their opponents in an effort to find and exploit weaknesses in each other’s game.  Calgary would end up striking first off a Dion Phaneuf slap shot from the right point that was deflected by Rangers defenseman Marek Malik. The Flames would score again just 38 seconds later when Rhett Warrener took advantage of a turnover in the Rangers zone.

The Rangers fought back in the second period and began to carry the play.  They were rewarded with two goals, one of which was a shot from behind the goal line that deflected off the skate of Phaneuf and went in short side Flames keeper Mikka Kiprusoff.

The two even teams exchanged chances in the third period but it would be the Rangers who would make the most of their chances.  The game winning goal came with 5:37 gone in the period.  Flames forward Tony Amonte was lazy getting back on a Rangers odd man rush and the ensuing shot by Jason Ward ended up in a fairly wide-open Flame's net.  With Kiprusoff on the bench for the extra attacker the Rags put the game out of the Flames reach.

Three Stars

1 – Petr Sykora.  In his first game as a New York Ranger he assisted on the 3rd Ranger goal and scored the 4th.  His style of play fits perfectly into the Rangers approach. 

2 – Martin Straka.  Scored the game winning goal and was an offensive force all night.  Complimented his new line mate Sykora very well.

3 – Henrik Lundqvist. The rookie goalie kept the Flames off the score sheet for the entire second and third periods. 

Big Hit

There were a couple nice ones in tonight’s game but the honor goes to aging Rangers super-pest Darius Kasparaitis.  As an errant Flames pass from their zone trickled over the blue line Daymond Langkow sped up to take control of it.  He was abruptly met by Kasparitis and was sent sprawling to the ice.

Big Save

An unlikely winner tonight.  Flames defenseman Roman Hamrlik stopped a sure Rangers goal off a wrap around when he was able to sweep away the puck when it was within just inches of the goal line.  Kiprusoff was sliding over from the far post and would not have gotten to the puck in time.

The Goat

The Flames team as a whole deserves some consideration for an annoying lack of killer instinct.  This is the second game in a row they have blown a two goal lead.  However, tonight’s goat is none other then Tony Amonte for his pathetic effort on the 3rd Rangers goal.  He let up on Jason Ward in the slot and left the Rangers right-winger in alone.  Ward got the pass from the corner and made no mistake with a gaping Flames net in front of him.

Mr. Clutch

Petr Sykora gets the honor tonight.  Not necessarily because of his stellar play but more due to the fact that he was just traded to the Rangers and immediately made his presence known.
Odds and Ends

Dion Phaneuf scored his 10th goal tonight.  If he keeps up this pace he may be able to break Brian Leetch’s record for most goals by a rookie defenseman.  As impressive as that is, 10 of Phaneuf’s 11 goals have come on the power play.  He needs to contribute more 5 on 5…A disturbing trend in the Flames play has emerged.  Earlier in the season they were continually out shooting their opponents.  In game of late they have either been out shot or have allowed 30 or more shots on net.  Or, in some cases, both…Tonight’s game was relatively well refereed.  Both teams were fairly disciplined and both teams were afforded 5 power plays…An interesting comparison from tonight’s game can mildly illustrate the different approaches the Flames and Rangers use.  Calgary had only 5 giveaways and the Ranger’s 10 but the Rangers were credited with 12 takeaways to Calgary’s 5…Calgary didn’t have a single player under 50% in the faceoff circle tonight.  The Flames won 63% of all the draws taken…Chuck Kobasew had a decent night and was awarded with almost 15 minutes on the ice.  Recently he has been seeing much less of the ice…Roman Hamrlik made a somewhat surprising return to action.  He wasn’t expected to be back from his knee injury until Saturday…Darren McCarty has been banged up lately and was a game time decision.  He was clearly laboring out there at times tonight.

Next up – Thursday, January 12, 2006.  On Long Island.  5:00pm MST.  Available on Rogers Sportsnet and Fan 960 am.

Lines –
Amonte - Yelle - McCarty
Huselius – Langkow – Iginla
Reinprecht – Lombardi - Kobasew
Simon - Nilson – Donovan

Leopold - Regehr
Warrener - Phaneuf
Hamrlik  - Ference








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