Sometimes, you just can't overcome the bounces, and this evening's defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings was a prime example of that. After a bit of a shaky start in which the Flames were outshot 3-0 in the opening minutes, they came back on the heels of a strong powerplay to fire sixteen shots on net in the first period, heading to the intermission with a 2-1 lead courtesy of Mikael Backlund's two quick goals, with Henrik Zetterberg scoring for Detroit on a 2-on-1 following a turnover in the offensive zone by Alex Tanguay.
The Wings were far from down for the count, however, and made quick work of tying things up on an early powerplay with Steve Staios in the box, when Nicklas Lidstrom's unscreened point shot made its way past an unsuspecting Kiprusoff while every other Flame on the ice stood and watched. Things would stay that way for the rest of the period, with the Wings outshooting the Flames 8-5.
Things took a turn for the worse nearly halfway through the third and final frame, when Johan Franzen's shot, aiming for the top corner of the net, hit Kiprusoff in the mask before rolling off his shoulder and into the net. A brief review followed, but the goal would stand. With the Flames pressing for the equalizer for the remainder of the period, the Wings denied any hopes of a comeback with just under four minutes remaining when Mark Giordano bobbled the puck at the offensive blueline, sending Todd "Sparklepants" Bertuzzi in alone in Kiprusoff to add to his team-leading totals, the final dagger in the hearts of Flames fans everywhere. It was a rough third period for Gio, who had gotten the gate for hooking just minutes prior to Big Bert's goal. On the plus side, Brendan Morrison remains the Flames leading point-getter with his assist on Backlund's second goal--*facepalm.*
While the Flames were the superior team for the better part of two periods tonight, they were certainly not mistake-free. The visitors were guilty of turnovers in all three zones and some lax defensive play tonight, and the Wings made them pay for it with their immense speed and skill, as they so often do; still, I think they deserved a better fate. That being said, the Flames failed to capitalize on their chances after Backlund's two quick goals in the opening frame, and Jimmy Howard was a brick wall; he deserves full credit for keeping the Wings in it when the Flames were pressing, and visibly frustrated the visiting forwards when they got behind Detroit's defence. Calgary once again accrued 10 shots with the man advantage, which, despite failing to convert on any of its five opportunities, generated some quality opportunities. The Wings managed seven shots and one goal on Kiprusoff on five opportunities, while both teams accumulated 22 shots on net at 5-on-5, with the Flames outshooting the Wings altogether by a total of 36-30.
Iginla, Stajan, and Tanguay went up against the Datsyuk/Zetterberg line and didn't fare too badly. The line was +6 in terms of Corsi and 17/14 in scoring chances for/against, although Tanguay and Stajan were the better of the three when it came to actually generating chances. Bourque was shifted around again tonight, and finished on the negative side of things both in Corsi and the scoring chance count, despite being one of the more dangerous Flames on the top two lines tonight, and finishing with the second most PP time of any Flame. He spent some time alongside Hagman and Jokinen, who had a combined Corsi of -12 and were on the ice for ten scoring chances against; it appears Jokinen did, in fact, see limited ice time after his giveaway led to the game winning goal, and rightfully so. He was easily the worst of Calgary's top six forwards tonight, although Hagman was also fairly invisible and Iginla had his moments of futility.
I really liked what I saw from the fourth line of Jackman-Conroy-Meyer tonight; Conroy was excellent on the penalty kill again and Jackman was a force on the forecheck, while Meyer made life difficult for Jimmy Howard, even if he got the gate for it (in a very questionable manner.) Brent Sutter even had them out for a few shifts against Datsyuk and Co. for reasons only he understands, but they got the job done and finished in the black, +5 in Corsi and 3/1 in scoring chances. Mikael Backlund was the undisputed star of the night for the Flames, as the rookie scored his first two goals of the season while firing six shots on net and finishing the evening a +2. Not to be discounted is the effort of Backlund's linemate Curtis Glencross, who collected two assists while playing 4:33 of shorthanded ice time, the most of any Flame.
This was far from a poor effort by the Flames, just an incomplete one. The fact they continue to outshoot their opponents, especially when that opponent is the Red Wings, is encouraging; the team did get slaughtered in the faceoff circle, however, winning an ugly 35% of their draws. These road warriors have no time to lick their wounds, as Rick Nash and the Blue Jackets (3-2-0) await, after beating Anaheim 3-1 on Wednesday. Look for 26-year-old rookie Henrik Karlsson to get his first start in net tomorrow evening after impressing in pre-season action.