“The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Lineup Changes: Michael Frolik was announced out due to the injury sustained against San Jose on Thursday night. He's considered 4-6 weeks with a fractured jaw. Gulutzan fires up the Magic Bullet and Jagr gets moved up to take his place, while Curtis Lazar draws in on the Stajan/Brouwer 4th line. He left that cheap infomercial blender on too long (“But wait, there's more!”) and somehow wound up having Bartkowski draw in for Kulak, too.
The More They Stay The Same: Despite breaking the Honda Center Curse, some things never change in that building. IE: Ryan Getzlaf making things look way too easy, drawing everyone to the net front with one-handed power moves, as he did to set up Cam Fowler at 3:48 for an early Ducks lead.
Actually, more things never change too. Mike Smith was either having flashbacks to his Coyote days, or we stepped into an Ebenezer Scrooge time displacement (“You there Flames! What day is this?!”) and wound up back in the dark days of The Curse. At 10:00 of the first, shots were 14-3 Ducks, and the period finished with 19 SOG against Smith. ( Allowing 3 powerpays never helps that either, but YEESH.)
Another thing that'll never change for Flames fans, is their disdain for Ryan Kesler. He and Tkachuk dropped the mitts in what would be called a draw by most (But there's always a win when someone is swinging at Kesler's face.) In a little more slight consolation from a disastrous first, Kesler had a PPG recalled with 1.2 seconds remaining for a distinct kicking motion. 1-0 Ducks after a shooting gallery first period, in what in all consideration was a Christmas Miracle that it wasn't 7-0.
Things That Change: Somehow the Flames find o-zone time and managed to carry large portions of the play, in a complete switcheroo from their play in the first stanza. In the 2nd intermission, Micheal Ferland referenced an intermission speech from Gulutzan, which must have done the trick. (I imagine it was something about getting all that holiday turkey out of their system.) It certainly did for Mister Ferland, as he buried a Bartkowski rebound (Debate temporarily out re: Bartkowski in the lineup) at 11:55 (This is Ferly's same amount of goals he had in the complete entirety of last year, except this is only game 37. #HowFerlandGotHisGrooveBack). Adding to Mike Smith's big night, he added the second assist on the equalizer.
The physicality continued Hathaway cause a scrum in the first, another slight one in the second, and Tkachuk shifted targets to having a few exchanges with Bieksa.
Flames outshoot the Ducks 9-7 in the second, shots 14-28 overall after two.
(Addendum to the Ferland interview from the second intermission, he gave a speech of his own. I mean, praising Mike Smith with “he gives guys **** when they need ****” on national television would motivate any team. Right?)
Fecal references might motivate some people, but we'll never know. In a “this is what you get with a goalie who plays the puck” moment, Mike Smith popped it over the glass for delay of game, and six seconds into the PP Getzlaf finds Rakell 2:17 into the period.
That pretty much took the wind out of the sails for the rest of the game, and Sean Monahan showed his frustration taking a high sticking penalty at 10:27. Pulling Smith in the late moments and getting a litany of icing calls on the Ducks in that duration couldn't tilt the ice back the other way.
Ducks win, 2-1 final.
The Burning Embers:
This was the 8th time this year Calgary allowed 40+ shots (41 tonight), and I dread the point where Smith starts throwing Phoenix-style post-game tantrums again. They also went 0-3 on the PP, and drop to 4-2-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season (And they’re far from done with those.)
Yes, teams get gassed playing back-to-back nights, but this one felt like it never got out of second gear. It feels like all the optimism and promise from breaking The Curse is gone or never existed. With Kesler and Getzlaf returning to the Anaheim lineup, it won't get any easier competing against them the rest of the way. Take a breath and look forward to turning the calendar, as the Flames host the Chicago Blackhawks on New Years Eve at Scotiabank Saddledome at 7:00PM MST.