NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 22: Niklas Hagman #10 of the Calgary Flames attempting to score against Martin Biron #43 of the New York Rangers during the first period on November 22 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York New York. (Photo by Lou Capozzola/Getty Images)
The Flames came into this game needing a win after blowing a two-goal lead last night against the Wings, and it was the stupid little mistakes that cost them the two points again tonight in a 2-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
After surviving a terrible first period in which the tired-looking Flames barely escaped their zone, the Rangers went up 1-0 on a 2-on-0 after a bad line change by the visitors forced Brendan Mikkelson to hustle back and attempt to break up the play, inadvertently tipping the puck into his own net. The Flames would bounce back and tie the game shortly after on Iginla's sixth goal in three games, but would find themselves down by one again through forty minutes when Curtis Glencross' idiotic high-sticking/cross-checking penalty led to a powerplay goal by Dan Girardi that dribbled past Kiprusoff.
The Flames out-shot the Rangers 15-8 and marginally out-chanced them at EV in the final frame, but failed to translate it into goals. The Rangers clogged up the front of the net and the slot infuriatingly well, clearing pucks with ease, and every Flames pass seemed to end up on a stick attached to a player wearing a blue jersey. The ones that got through were either absorbed by Martin Biron, bounced over a stick, or glanced off a skate or shin pad, going wide. It was that kind of game for the Flames.
They didn't outplay the Rangers by an outrageous margin or anything (shots ended up 32-24 in favour of the visitors), but after escaping an awful first period and putting together a decent effort in the next two, they should have left the Big Apple with at least a point. The Flames have little in the way of excuses for being 0-2 on this road trip; they should have locked it down when they had a two-goal lead midway through the the third last night, and they had every chance to beat the Rangers tonight. The last two games have been blown on the basis of routine occurrences like line changes and un-screened powerplay point shots that should be just that: routine. But somehow this, team keeps finding ways to flub them, and it is incredibly frustrating to watch. They didn't exactly do themselves any favours tonight by showing a collective lack of discipline either, the most obvious instance of which being Glencross' infraction which led to the GWG.
On a night when nearly every Flame was underwater in terms of scoring chances, Iginla's line was on the ice for the most chances for, the Captain lead the way with seven. Iggy somehow managed to be the only Calgary forward in the red in terms of Corsi while Cory Sarich owned the lone minus on the defensive side of things. I didn't think the Hagman-Backlund-Bourque line (matched up mostly against the Frolov line) looked as bad as the chance count suggests, but Bourque struggled noticeably in this game. He logged 20:42 tonight while Mikael Backlund clocked in at 18:06 after Matt Stajan went down with an apparent head injury following this hit by Marc Staal.
Staal's shoulder appears to make contact with Stajan's head, and the impact was enough to send his helmet flying. There was no penalty on the play, and although a case can be made for Stajan admiring his pass and/or failing to keep his head up, the hit seems to fit the league's description of a "blindside hit to the head." Others have raised the point that this hit is probably worse than others that have resulted in suspensions since the new rule was implemented to start the season, and the onus will without a doubt be on Colin Campbell to demonstrate some much-needed consistency in his discipline, especially in the face of recent developments. Regardless of whether the hit is ruled clean or not, you never like to see a player go down like that. Hopefully Stajan isn't hurt too badly.
All in all, this was yet another frustrating loss for the Flames. Kiprusoff held them in a game they had no business being in throughout much of the first period, and was partially at fault on what would be the game winning goal. The team still has three games in which they can potentially salvage a respectable record on this road trip, but two of them are against very tough opponents in the Flyers and Penguins, and the other is against a team that is probably not as bad as their record might indicate.