It turns out this game was boring for an entirely different reason than originally anticipated--it was a total blowout. The Flames would fall 6-0 at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on home ice in a game where they failed to generate anything meaningful from an offensive standpoint and couldn't stop the bleeding in their own end. Miikka Kiprusoff received a mock cheer from the Saddledome crow as he stopped a routine shot in the dying minutes of the game after allowing 5 ES goals on 19 shots. Yup, it was that kind of night. A blowout loss to a team that is, at best, marginally better than the Flames and has been benefitting from the percentages as of late.
The first period was scoreless for a whole 3:25 before Martin Havlat scored his 15th career goal against the Flames, assisted by Kyle Brodziak (who always seems to get at least a point against the Flames--must be the whole "former Oiler" thing) and Greg Zanon. The Wild would extend their lead under three minutes later; with Anton Babchuk off for elbowing, captain Mikko Koivu would cash in on the man advantage, putting his 12th of the season past Kiprusoff. The opening frame ended with shots tied at nine per side, including one Calgary shot that found the iron.
The Flames would start to find their legs a bit in the second period, gaining some momentum from a five-minute penalty kill that resulted from Curtis Glencross' dangerous hit from behind on Minnesota's Clayton Stoner. The Flames actually had a couple of decent opportunities shorthanded, but couldn't convert. Two consecutive powerplays would also prove fruitless, and Minnesota would add to its lead when John Madden broke away from Robyn Regehr and whacked a rebound past Kiprusoff with a minute and a half remaining in the period to further limit the Flames' hopes of another fortuitous comeback.
The third period started the same way the second left off, as Cal Clutterbuck would make quick work of putting the Wild ahead by four just 2:48 into the final frame, with Havlat and Brodziak adding to their point totals with assists on the marker. The token "goal by a former Flame" came when Chuck Kobasew beat Kipper with a long-range slap shot. Havlat would finish up the scoring the way it started for the Wild with his 13th goal of the season at 17:08, as the visitors took no mercy on their hapless hosts. Shots were 16-6 in favour of the Flames in the final frame, but none would find their way past Backstrom, who would record a shutout in his first game back from injury.
It's hard to dissect individual performances in a six-goal blowout. Apparently Olli Jokinen had six shots on goal; I'm not sure I remember any of them. Obviously, there were a few goals that Kiprusoff would like to have back, but his defenders proved ineffectual and slow in preventing scoring chances and shots from scoring areas. Despite the fact that the Flames outshot their opponents 37-24 overall and 29-19 at ES and only three skaters finished in the red in terms of Corsi (hint: they rhyme with Jokinen, Kotalik, and Sarich), they failed to generate much in the way of high-quality scoring chances and--combined with the fact that the bounces weren't on their side--it cost them.
This was certainly an ugly loss and the margin was unexpected, but a loss of some calibre had to be anticipated after the way this team played in some games during their road trip.
The Flames will have a day off tomorrow undoubtably punctuated by something resembling a bag skate before taking on the Stars Friday and the Canucks on Saturday.
On the plus side, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two assists in the CHL top prospects game tonight. So there's that...