For the second straight game, the Flames blew a comfortable lead against a division rival, but this time, the breakdowns weren't confined to the final twenty minutes. An abundance of turnovers, bad passes, and careless defence presented opportunities for Colorado's fleet-of-foot forwards to get back into the game and eventually take the lead, and they capitalized.
The game actually got off to a fairly slow start through the first ten minutes, before Nik Hagman's powerplay goal on Jean-Michael Liles' second consecutive infraction gave the Flames a 1-0 lead. It was short lived, however, as the Avs tied it up on a powerplay of their own just a minute later with Alex Tanguay in the box for holding. A late-period goal by Tim Jackman who found himself all alone at the side of the Colorado goal with Budaj out to sea would give the home team a 2-1 lead to close out the first.
Alex Tanguay's penalty in the first period kicked off a spree of five straight trips to the sin bin for the Flames, two each to Sarich and Tanguay, who exercised lazy discipline against the speedy Avs. The tide turned for Calgary when Matt Stajan's long-range slapper beat Budaj to give them a 3-1 lead, but clamp down on a two goal lead in front of the home crowd, they did not, and Chris Stewart's two goals in the span of 30 seconds tied things up for the visitors. The Flames retook the lead with Olli Jokinen's first of the season with just a minute and a half left in the period, and it looked like the home side might find a way to win this one despite being outshot 21-16.
Brandon Yip would tie the game for Colorado just 1:55 into the third when he maneuvered his way through a sea of red sweaters and slipped a backhand past Karlsson, and former Hitmen T.J. Galliardi would give the Avs their first lead of the game five minutes later when he caught Robyn Regehr napping in front of the Flames net. Tanguay would tie things up at five when he out-waited Budaj and slid home a soft shot on his backhand, but Colorado would retake the lead with just over two minutes left and the Flames couldn't beat Budaj in their last-minute flurry to secure the loser point. The final shot tally was 36-19 in favour of the Avs and Calgary finished the evening with only 13 shots on goal at EV. Yuck.
Despite fighting back when the Avs tied the game and then took the lead, there's no question that the Flames didn't deserve to win this game. They were lazy, undisciplined, and soft on the puck all evening, and if it hadn't been for Budaj allowing five goals on 19 shots, this could have been a very different, and perhaps even uglier, game. The only Flames not underwater in terms of Corsi were Jackman, Conroy, Meyer, Glencross, and Brendan Mikkelson, who returned to the lineup after being scratched on Tuesday against the Oilers. Him, Bouwmeester, and maybe Sarich (debatable because of his two penalties) were the only defenders without an egregious error to their names last night. Regehr just looked slow and lost most of the evening, especially on Galliardi's goal. Sarich and Mikkelson came out on the positive side of the scoring chance ledger, while Bouw was even.
Up front, Rene Bourque was -15, the worst of any forward, and his line, a combined -28, despite the fact that Jokinen and Hagman both scored. The same goes for the top line, a combined -19, although they came out even in the scoring chance count. It's apparent that the offence the Flames did generate last night was more so the result of good fortune rather than actual good play. This was most definitely the team's worst overall game since the 3-0 loss to Florida.
Last season, the Flames escaped with the two points in a similar game against their next opponent, the Capitals, taking advantage of some weak goaltending to build up a quick lead and score a 5-3 victory over Ovechkin's crew, despite getting outplayed for most of the game. Obviously a similar result would be welcome, but an improved effort after two incomplete games is what fans, players, and coaches alike want to see tomorrow night at the 'Dome against the Caps, which Brent Sutter made fairly clear when he slammed his hand down on the podium in frustration during last night's post-game press scrum.