After a five-goal first period concluded with the Flames trailing by one, the visitors failed to muster up the tying goal in a lack-luster final forty minutes punctuated by an incessant stream of penalties, falling 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Centre and remaining three games under .500 in fourth place in the Northwest.
The Flames found themselves down early in this one, as a pair of powerplay goals on three consecutive Flames penalties would put the Blackhawks up by two before the first period was ten minutes old. The visitors would answer back, breaking their ugly powerplay slide with two goals of their own with the man advantage, courtesy of Jarome Iginla and Anton Babchuk, who scored his first as a Flame on one if his signature booming slapshots from the point. The parade to the penalty box continued for the Flames, however, as Jonathan Toews would give the 'Hawks a 3-2 lead when David Moss was nabbed for high-sticking late in the frame. Shots were 13-8 for Chicago after twenty minutes of play.
Calgary would clean up their act a bit in the second, taking only two minors in the middle frame, but they failed to capitalize on two powerplay opportunities to tie the game. After a bit of a shaky start, Kiprusoff was there when the team needed him, but the Flames were outshot 11-8 in what was a very uninspiring second period effort by the visitors.
The final frame started off in a similar fashion, as two penalties in the first half of the period hindered the Flames' efforts to tie the score. They recovered somewhat in the final nine minutes when the Blackhawks ran into some penalty trouble and generated some decent chances while up a man, including a shot off the stick of Jarome Iginla that glanced off the post, but couldn't put it away. A penalty to Jay Bouwmeester with 1:48 remaining negated any chance the Flames had for late-game heroics, and Dave Bolland would score his second of the night into Miikka Kiprusoff's vacated cage--fittingly, on a powerplay.
Much like the last Wednesday's loss to Vancouver, this game was lost on the basis of special teams. The Flames essentially played the 'Hawks to a draw in the seemingly limited amount of time the two teams spent at even strength, firing 17 ES shots on net compared to 18 by the hosts, but their penalty kill wasn't good enough, stopping only ten of Chicago's thirteen shots with the extra man, and the powerplay couldn't score when they needed it most, firing only eight shots on net on seven opportunities. There was certainly a bit of bad luck involved (Re: Iggy's post), but the failure to convert was largely of their own making, as the team had trouble setting up in the offensive zone, maintaining pressure on the Hawks' penalty killers, and getting shots on backup 'tender Corey Crawford. The Flames were very effective at getting bodies to the net in the first period, and it didn't carry over into the final two.
Jarome Iginla lead the team with five shots on goal tonight, but the effort wasn't there from the rest of the Flames' top six tonight. Neither Rene Bourque, Matt Stajan, or Niklas Hagman recorded a shot on net tonight, while Ales Kotalik had one in his first game back from injury, Alex Tanguay finished the night with two shots and Olli Jokinen had three. Lines were a bit mixed up tonight and ice time oddly distributed due to the amount of time spent on special teams, but the Flames' top players weren't good enough to make a difference at even strength.
The bottom six carried the load at ES tonight for the most part, as Brendan Morrison, Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman, Curtis Glencross, and David Moss were the only forwards to finish in the black in Corsi. Hagman, Jokinen, and Kotalik got stuck with Toews' line, while Iginla and Co. faced off against Bickel, Bolland, and Brouwer, with the former two accounting for the all three Chicago goals on the night.
Having not won two consecutive games since October, this was an opportunity for the Flames to gain some somewhat meaningful ground in the Northwest, and they failed to do so. Now back in last place in the West as the Oilers have a game in hand, they head home to take on the Lightning at the 'Dome on Tuesday.