The Flames rolled into Vancouver last night hoping to get the best of their divisional rivals after a humbling loss to the Islanders on home ice ended their four-game win streak, but alas, it was not to be, as the visitors would fall 3-1 at Rogers Arena thanks to a first period in which they allowed two goals on just seven Canucks shots.
As mentioned above, the opening frame of this hockey game was not kind to the Flames. Ryan Kesler scored his 20th of the season just 1:10 in to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. After the Flames failed to capitalize on a powerplay opportunity halfway through the period, Kevin Bieksa would add another to give the Canucks a 2-0 advantage after one The home side held a 6-2 advantage in scoring chances after twenty minutes despite falling behind on the shot clock.
The Flames built on their shot advantage in the second period, limiting the Canucks to just five shots in the middle frame, but to no avail. Daniel Sedin would score at 9:27 to increase Vancouver's lead to three, as the home side still managed to edge the Flames in chances 3-1 and 9-5 through two.
This trend would continue into the final frame, when the visitors outshot the Canucks 2-1 and managed to build an 8-1 advantage in scoring chances, but there would be no inspiring comeback in this one. Tim Jackman would score with just 11 seconds remaining in the game to break Luongo's shutout, representing a new career-high of six goals for the gritty forward. The lone assist went to Mikael Backlund, his fifth of the season in his first game since being recalled from his one-game stint in Abbotsford on Tuesday.
Backlund finished with a team-high five shots on goal, at evens in scoring chances, and +13 in terms of possession, not bad underlying numbers for his first game back with the big club. He was on the ice for five defensive zone draws compared to four in both the neutral and offensive zones playing mostly against the Canucks' fourth line with Jackman and Kostopoulos, as David Moss moved up to play with Iginla and Matt Stajan at one point in the proceedings.
The likes of Bourque, Stajan, Glencross, and Morrison had a much better outing last night in terms of underlying numbers, as each of them finished in the black in both scoring chances and Corsi, but this was yet another night where the Flames' "lesser lights" carried the club in an offensive capacity, however limited. Jarome Iginla somehow managed to be the only Flame that finished underwater in terms of possession while himself, Olli Jokinen, and Alex Tanguay each finished in the red in scoring chances at ES, despite the fact that the Flames outshot the Canucks 38-18 at evens. They each finished -2 on the scoresheet alongside Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr--overall, not a good night for the Flames' top-end players, as Miikka Kiprusoff didn't necessarily have the strongest game either, allowing three goals on just 18 ES shots by the Canucks.
The Flames were certainly victims of a little bit of bad luck last night, but Vancouver is a very good team; the Canucks capitalized on their chances and made their shots count, and the Flames didn't do enough to accomplish the same feat, with most of their 44 shots coming from the perimeter and other less dangerous scoring areas.
It's not going to get much easier tomorrow night against the Wings--a club that has scored the most goals of any Western Conference team and has a 12-5-1 record away from home despite going just 5-3-2 in their past ten games.