After losing 3-1 to the Wild two days prior to tonight's game, the events of this evening were eerily similar, with an Minnesota empty netter being the only thing separating the results of the two contests, as the Flames would drop a 4-1 decision at the Xcel Energy Center.
The home team would score first when Kyle Brodziak found himself alone in front of the Flames net and beat Kiprusoff at 9:18 of the opening frame on a goal assisted by Canadian World Junior silver medal winner Marco Scandella. The Flames would out-chance and out-shoot the Wild by a small margin through twenty minutes, but were unable to find the back of the net.
The visitors would continue to take it the Wild in the middle frame; after Olli Jokinen scored to tie things up just 3:23 in, the Flames would hold their hosts to just three shots in the second period and just two scoring chances, with Wild 'tender Nicklas Backstrom keeping his team in the game through forty minutes.
All hell would break loose in the third, however. After killing off an early Flames powerplay, the Wild's man advantage would cash in when Flame-killer Martin Havlat scored just over six minutes in to give his team a 2-1 lead. Just over three minutes later, John Madden would score on another Minnesota powerplay (side note: what is John Madden doing on the powerplay?) to extend the lead for the home side. The Flames would fail to capitalize on a powerplay with three minutes remaining in the game and the Wild would seal the victory with an empty net goal by Cal Clutterbuck. Shots were even at 10-10 in the final frame, with the Flames edging Minnesota in chances 22-13.
By all indications, this is a game the Flames should have and could have won. They out-chanced and out-shot an opponent in the same boat as them, and were sunk by a poor performance on the penalty kill and some goals against that Kipper would probably like to have back. They've given up four points to the Wild in back-to-back losses while gaining none, and now sit three points behind their Northwest division rival as the gap between them and the potentially playoff bound teams in the West grows wider and wider.
The re-united trio of Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, and Alex Tanguay dominated their opposition in terms of EV scoring chances tonight, with a combined +16 scoring chance differential. They also finished +33 in Corsi and fired 11 shots on net. Jokinen was the only one with a point on the night, but it wasn't for lack of trying. All three turned in a better performance than in Saturday's loss. The supporting cast, on the other hand, didn't have the greatest night. After a strong performance in their last outing, Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman, and their new linemate Craig Conroy finished -19 in Corsi and -1 in scoring chance differential, and they got a lot fewer offensive zone draws in this game compared to last, perhaps because Brent Sutter is more comfortable burying Conroy when he's proven to be a capable defensive forward. Aside from that trio, Anton Babchuk was the only Flame to finish in the red.
This team is not in a position where they can afford to give away points and squander efforts such as this. Maybe they're deserving of a little luck after out-playing their opposition in two consecutive losses, but they have to capitalize on nights such as these. The Flames have a quick turnaround as they're in Columbus tomorrow to take on the Blue Jackets, whom they needed overtime to beat after blowing an early 2-0 lead one week ago.