A dominant first period effort where the Flames outshot the visiting Coyotes 16-9 but failed to put any pucks past Bryzgalov would prove to be their downfall last night at the Saddledome, as the 'Yotes capitalized on an undisciplined second period by the Flames to take a 2-0 lead into the final frame, winning the game 3-1 despite a late push by the home side to tie things up at two.
It was yet another frustrating affair for the Flames, who fired 40 shots of varying quality on net, but only one managed to find its way past Ilya Bryzgalov, courtesy of Rene Bourque. Phoenix's first goal, a bad-angle Wojtek Wolski shot from near the goal line, is probably one that Kipper would like to have back, but there wasn't much he could have done about their second marker, resulting from a frantic net-front scramble off a PP point-shot rebound.
Olli Jokinen's five minute cross-checking major and game misconduct penalty put the Flames even further behind in halfway through the third, and although they managed to limit the damage and actually outshot the Coyotes 15-7 in the final frame, but failed to muster many dangerous scoring chances, aside from Tanguay's shot that hit the post in the final minutes. The fact that the Flames spent what felt like a decent portion of the final two minutes or so in their own end should tell you everything you need to know about the level of urgency the home side displayed in this game.
Jarome Iginla played over twenty minutes (most of them at even strength) for what could be the first time this season and looked much more involved for portions of this game after rumours of a deal that would send him to the LA Kings intensified Tuesday. The Captain had four shots on goal, was a lot harder on the puck, and made several good plays in what would prove to be largely futile attempts to generate offence. Mikael Backlund led the team with five shots on net, although I can only say I noticed one of them, a hard drive from the slot off an Iginla feed from along the boards. Backlund also played over five minutes on the penalty kill (!), the next closest forward was Alex Tanguay at 3:52. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but I really don't see how using him excessively in shorthanded situations is beneficial to his development; although he's not doing terribly (he led his line in Corsi at +7), it seems like the coaching staff is trying to mould him into some sort of two-way energy line type of player, and I'm not sure that's what he's cut out for.
Iginla and Tanguay were a combined +29, mostly due to a strong first period, and +10 in the scoring chance count. Despite only playing 12:05 at ES, Olli Jokinen managed to finish in the red by both metrics.
I would like to say that the Flames deserved a better fate in this one, but they let their frustration show and it cost them. Thirty minutes does not a hockey game make, and that's probably about how long we saw this team put in a concerted effort for last night. The Flames may have been unlucky, but they're not going to win very often when they insist on playing incomplete games that vary wildly in effort from period to period. A team can get away with games like that a few times a season, when they somehow find a way to win, but it shouldn't be a regular occurrence, and that's what this season seems to have turned into for the Flames.
Anton Babchuk and Tom Kostopoulos should make their Flames debut against the Blackhawks on Friday for the first of four games against the defending Stanley Cup Champs before the team hits the road again for a five-game trip through Detroit and the Northeastern United States.