After three wins in their past four games including two against divisional rivals Colorado and Edmonton, it almost seemed as if the Flames young guns were in for a bit of a letdown. The youthful energy that was there in Saturday's contest in Edmonton from the moment the puck first touched the ice was not quite at the same level when Mikko Koivu scored just over two minutes into last night's game against the Minnesota Wild.
It was an up and down affair, with the Flames chasing early, they applied pressure to the Wild for the remainder of the first period, and had a few good chances to tie things up with Ryan Suter off for high-sticking on Sven Baertschi late in the opening frame, but to no avail. The first period would conclude with the Flames down by one, but leading 11-6 in shots on net.
The lack of energy was very evident in the second period. Despite another early powerplay drawn by Baertschi and a couple golden chances by the duo of himself and Max Reinhart, the Flames still could not lift the puck past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.
The Wild dominated the middle frame, outshooting the Flames 12-3, and trade deadline acquisition Jason Pominville scored his 13th goal of the season just over halfway through the period to give the Wild a 2-0 advantage.
With ninety seconds remaining, Mark Giordano was sent to the sin bin for four minutes for high-sticking Charlie Coyle. The Flames would escape the period without further damage and start the final frame on the penalty kill.
The home team managed to kill off the remainder of Giordano's four minute major, and less than four minutes into the period, Jiri Hudler scored on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play assisted by Roman Cervenka and Roman Horak (henceforth known as the Czeching Line):
It wouldn't take the Wild long to regain their two-goal lead, however, as Pierre-Marc Bouchard would score 11 seconds after Hudler's goal and before the announcer had even finished calling it out over the Saddledome PA system.
Jason Pominville would score his second of the night just over a minute later on a hard shot from far out that went right through Joey MacDonald to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead.
But the Flames weren't done yet. Curtis Glencross passed the puck to Mikael Backlund out in front of the Wild net from behind the goal line, and Ben Hanowski was there to scoop up the loose disc and shove it home for his first NHL goal. This is the second consecutive game where a new member of the Flames has scored their first goal a pro, with Max Reinhart accomplishing the same feat Saturday in Edmonton.
Sven Baertschi would deposit a slick cross-crease pass from Mike Cammalleri past Niklas Backstrom with less than a minute remaining in the period to draw the Flames to within one, but a last minute scramble for the tying goal with MacDonald off for the extra attacker would prove fruitless, and the Flames would fall 4-3 to their divisional rivals. Shots were even at nine a piece in the third period.
Last night was another encouraging game for the Flames' youngsters. Mikael Backlund led the team again with five shots on goal and Reinhart, Baertschi and Horak all played near or over 15 minutes, with Baertschi and Horak earning a goal and an assist, respectively. Hanowski played the least of the four at 12:22, all at even strength.
The Flames face the Detroit Red Wings at home on Wednesday for the last time as Western conference opponents. Miikka Kiprusoff will start for the home team tomorrow. The Flames are 2-0 against the Wings so far this season, as Detroit works to hold down the final playoff spot in the West.