Both the Flames and Isles came into this game on winning streaks, one of which had to end tonight...and the final result was laughable yet somehow, so predictable as the Flames dropped a 5-2 decision to the 28th-ranked team in the NHL.
The hosts were behind the eight ball early in this one with an awful first period, as the Islanders took the lead just over three minutes in when John Tavares beat Karlsson with a slick individual effort on te powerplay for his 12th of the season. Matt Moulson put his club up by two five minutes later before David Moss got the Flames on the board with a marker assisted by Adam Pardy and Anton Babchuk. The home side's push was short lived, however, as Tavares put the Isles up by two again under two minutes later on another New York powerplay, one of three in the first period. The Isles out-shot the home side 13-9 in the opening frame.
After the visitors added to their lead just a few minutes into the second period (sensing a pattern here?), the Flames would reel things in from there on out. David Moss' second of the night would bring the home side within two at 13:22, and the Flames would out-shoot the Isles 19-9 in the middle frame and out-chance them 13-5.
Despite further padding their territorial advantage in the third period, that was as close as the Flames would get in this one. A few maddening stretches of incessant pressure around the Islanders crease would prove fruitless, and Michael Grabner would seal a third consecutive victory for the NYI with an empty net goal with just over a minute remaining.
The Flames weren't prepared for what this suddenly confident Islanders team had to throw at them in this game, and it cost them. They were awful shorthanded and couldn't bounce back from a shoddy opening twenty minutes, despite all the chances they accumulated in the final forty. Outside of a few offensive flurries in the vicinity of Rick DePietro and then Nathan Lawson, most of the Flames' chances weren't of the dangerous variety, as the majority were low shots that either hit shinpads or sticks or were absorbed the the Isles' 'tenders.
This was yet another evening when the Flames' fourth line carried the team. They were +16 in terms of scoring chance differential at EV and +38 in Corsi. A team being carried offensively almost entirely by its fourth line, regardless of how well they're playing, likely doesn't deserve to win the hockey game, which was certainly the case tonight. After a string of games in which they more than held their own against other teams' top lines, the Flames' top trio of Tanguay, Jokinen, and Iginla struggled tonight against inferior competition, unable to generate much in terms of EV scoring chances or possession despite firing a combined ten shots on goal.
Henrik Karlsson didn't have his best night in the Flames' crease, allowing four goals on 25 shots, but he certainly shouldn't shoulder the entirety of the blame for this debacle. The Flames weren't ready to play and couldn't convert when they were chasing. The bounces didn't go their way tonight, but they didn't deserve them to. A team in the Flames' position can't afford to take games or even periods off, nevermind against a club practically condemned to the NHL's cellar before the halfway point of the season.
It doesn't get any easier than this in the next little while, as the Flames visit the Canucks on Wednesday before taking on the Wings at home on Friday evening, taking three days off before hitting the road for a four-game road trip beginning in Carolina next Tuesday.