Welcome to the rebuild, Calgary. The Flames have now scored one goal in their last four games.
The game started off truculently enough, as newest facepuncher Kevin Westgarth cross checked Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop for no apparent reason. This resulted in a Tampa powerplay. The Lightning were unable to cash in on the man advantage, but got their vengeance soon enough as a fight between Westgarth and Ryan Malone broke out nowhere near the play. This, of course, had absolutely no real affect on the game, as these things tend not to.
Mikael Backlund did a better job of proving the Flames as tough to play against when he bulled his way to a partial breakaway, drawing a penalty as Eric Brewer hooked him. Mike Cammalleri actually did bat the puck in off Backlund's efforts, but the refs had already whistled the play dead. The Flames were unable to score on the powerplay, and left the first period with five shots on net to Tampa's 13.
The second period was when things started to happen. Karri Ramo, who was absolutely stellar all game, finally got beat seven seconds after a penalty to Cammalleri expired. Ondrej Palat roofed the puck over Ramo's glove to put the Lightning on the board.
The Lightning would extend their lead just eight seconds after another Cammalleri penalty expired, when Palat made a perfect pass to Nikita Kucherov, who easily beat out Ladislav Smid for the puck and was able to tip it in.
While the Flames were not having themselves a particularly good game, neither were the referees. During a powerplay Cammalleri actually drew, Matt Carle lost his skate blade. He stood by his net helplessly while his team managed to clear the puck from the zone. The official nearest him retrieved the blade, and play continued... until the Flames brought the puck back into the offensive zone, when it was whistled dead. Normally, a lost skate blade doesn't result in calling the play dead, but to wait for the Flames to gain the zone until doing so was particularly perplexing (and drew quite the ire from the crowd).
The Flames began to press more in the third period, but were unable to break Bishop's shutout bid. Tampa came close to scoring again when Ramo finally had enough and skated out to try to clear the puck himself, only to turn it over, but they missed on the shot. Ramo was outstanding all game long, however, stopping 27 of 29 shots, and not really having a chance on the two that got by him.
Also, Westgarth and Brian McGrattan played in the third. Westgarth especially towards the end, for some reason. Because if there's one thing two guys who have two points between them (both McGrattan's) are going to do, it's help come back from a 2-0 deficit. This is your team, Burke.
- THIS is what is supposed to happen when a player loses his skate blade on the ice:
If Carle wants to stand uselessly by his net, unable to skate when he loses a blade, that's his problem. For the referee to actually wait for the Flames to enter the zone before blowing the play dead is... inexplicable. Never, ever, ever seen that before. The Flames haven't been doing themselves any favours lately, but it would be nice if the refs officiating their games made it look... slightly less like deliberate sabotage.
- Speaking of things that are inexplicable, I'm still trying to figure out why Westgarth was on the ice towards the end of the game. He has no points this season, and your team is down 2-0... Did Hartley think he was due? Maybe Westgarth was there to intimidate the Lightning into giving up two goals? Is Hartley trying to tell Burke, "Hey, you see how little this is helping me?" We'll never know.
- This isn't to say that truculence is a bad thing to have. There's good truculence and bad truculence. An example of good truculence would be Backlund forcing his way to Bishop's net to draw a penalty. It was an aggressive play that resulted in a scoring chance for the Flames, and that's what's going to help you win games. An example of bad truculence would be Westgarth's crosscheck on Bishop, which only served to generate scoring chances for the Lightning as they got a powerplay out of that mess. If Brian Burke wants to establish a truculent team, that's fine, but he needs to acquire more of the former and get rid of the latter... and seeing as how he's the guy who directly brought in Westgarth, he's not off to the best start.
- Ramo was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very good in facing his former team. He stopped a number of high quality chances against, and was the only reason the score was respectable. His teammates owe him big time for giving them a chance pretty much the entire game.
The Flames will try to score their first goal of 2014 when they visit the Colorado Avalanche on January 6.