The Other Side: Five For Howling
The Flames came into this one having lost all three previous meetings to the Phoenix Coyotes this season, and tonight's game would be no different, resulting in a 4-3 win for the opposition.
The Coyotes would get off to a good start in what was a very sub-par first period for the Flames. The visitors would take a 1-0 lead on Lee Stempniak's 15th of the season 8:25 in and, after generating a few chances on a failed powerplay, kept the pressure on for a good portion of the remainder of the frame. The home side would even things up with just under two minutes remaining when Olli Jokinen's shot took a strange hop and deflected past Ilya Bryzgalov and into the 'Yotes net, and the period would conclude with the two teams deadlocked in a tie thanks to a fortunate bounce for the Flames after some mediocre play.
The home side remained lifeless throughout much of the second period, and had only twelve shots on goal at one point in the middle frame, limiting them to just two scoring chances. After Phoenix scored to go up 2-1 courtesy of an Eric Belanger breakaway marker, the Flames began to turn the tide and drew a late penalty which would carry over into the final frame.
Despite the man advantage, the period did not start well for the Flames, and the visitors would score twice on goals by Keith Yandle and Michal Rozsival just nineteen-seconds apart to take a three-goal lead. Yandle was left open in the slot and Roszival, uncovered at the point and both were able to beat Miikka Kiprusoff with hard, unobstructed shots. Under a minute later, Mikael Backlund would score on a Flames powerplay to give the Flames some life, and Alex Tanguay would make things interesting with his 19th of the season at 9:28, but that was as close as the Flames would get.
They never dominated the Coyotes in the final frame and Phoenix's defenders did a pretty solid job of eliminating most dangerous scoring chances against; even with the game on the line in the final minutes, the porous Flames defence gave up an odd-man rush. Despite a near comeback, the Flames were never the better team in this one; with just ten games left in the regular season, tonight's futile attempt at victory was not good enough from start to finish.
This team is in control of their own results and at this moment they're screwing it up royally--regardless of injuries and regardless of bounces. I remember saying back in the middle of the season that the Flames couldn't afford many more regulation losses if they were to remain competitive, three in a row now is absurd. This team needs to start picking up points. They were fortunate tonight as both the Predators and Stars lost, but surely that won't continue for the rest of the season.
Nearly every player on the ice tonight needed to better--with a few more specific examples in guys like Bouwmeester and Regehr who struggled mightily tonight--and against a team lacking much in the way of top-flight difference makers outside of their goaltender. Not good at all.
The Flames are off tomorrow before taking on the Avs on Thursday night.