The Flames needed to come out with and sustain a better effort last night against the visiting Red Wings in order to halt their two-game tailspin heading into November, and while Kiprusoff and the defence managed to stop the bleeding in terms of goals against, the Flames couldn't catch up on the scoreboard, dropping a 2-1 decision in the final game of their five-game home stand.
After a first period in which both teams were the beneficiaries of some whistle-happy officials, the Flames emerged with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a powerplay goal by Mark Giordano (sporting a spiffy new handlebar mustache for Movember), despite being outshot 12-6 by the Wings and having to kill off a four-minute double minor assessed to Craig Conroy for high-sticking.
The middle frame was played mostly at evens, and, unsurprisingly, the Wings held the advantage. Mike Modano skated into Flames territory virtually uncontested after a turnover by Matt Stajan just outside the his own blueline and rifled a shot past Kipper's glove side just 1:54 into the period to tie the game, and Detroit would take the lead ten minutes later when Justin Abdelkader got in behind Jay Bouwmeester and received a pass from Pavel Datsyuk, making no mistake in putting a similar shot past Kiprusoff. The Flames kept it close for the rest of the period, as they would out-chance the Wings 5-3, but were still outshot 9-7.
The third period was practically no contest. Despite being the recipients of a four minute man advantage after Niklas Hagman was cut above the lip by an inadvertent high stick, the Flames generated little in the way of dangerous scoring opportunities, the best of which was probably Matt Stajan's wrap-around attempt on Jimmy Howard, and any chance of a late comeback was negated by a tripping penalty assessed to Alex Tanguay with just fifty-seconds left in the game. The home side was outshot 12-4 in the final frame and 33-17 overall, fallingl to the Wings in regulation for the third straight game dating back to last season.
As is typically the case in losses to the Red Wings, the Flames didn't play a strong enough possession game last night; they failed to generate much in the way of sustained pressure in the offensive zone at EV and scored only once on seven powerplay opportunities. Seventeen shots on goal and only eight at 5-on-5 is pathetic, especially at home; give Detroit credit for playing a near perfect road game, but still...yuck. Not good. Every Flame was underwater in terms of Corsi last night while Giordano, Ian White, Curtis Glencross, Mikael Backlund, Craig Conroy, and Rene Bourque came out on the positive side of the EV scoring chance differential, a combined +8. Stajan and Brendan Mikkelson struggled in that department, as both finished the evening -5.
Perhaps the one encouraging trend developing a month into the season was the fact that the Flames had outshot their opposition in ten of the eleven games they had played, but after two games in which they failed to fire even 20 pucks at the opposing goal, that too appears to be on the downturn. While there was little doubt that this team was getting some bounces early on and likely wouldn't be able to sustain its high shooting percentages, they were still outshooting their competition. Without the shots, you're usually not going to get the bounces--unless you're the 2009-10 Avs--not something most teams seek to emulate.
The lack of EV ice time being doled out to the team's first line, specifically Jarome Iginla (who clocked in at 9:24), was a hot topic during and after last night's game, as the Captain didn't play a shift for the first five minutes or so of the third period after taking an ill-advised cross-checking penalty on former Flame Brad Stuart in the dying seconds of the middle frame. The team is struggling, and although the rest of this teams' top forwards also need to be held accountable (Rene Bourque has been virtually invisible since his hot streak came to an end against the Oilers), there's no question Iggy needs to be better. He knows it, and I have no problem with Brent Sutter attempting to reinforce it, but it's going to be an awfully long season if this is not ameliorated in some way, shape, or form.
The Flames hit the road for a four-game trip starting tomorrow in Minnesota before stopping in Denver, Phoenix, and San Jose.