Playoff hopes going down in Flames
CALGARY — Perhaps betraying his youth, Drew Doughty opted for anything but political correctness Wednesday in sizing up a crucial game at the Saddledome.
Heading into the proceedings, only one point separated Darryl Sutter's ninth-place Los Angeles Kings and Brent Sutter's 11th-place Calgary Flames with the end of the season just 10 days away.
"We've just got to look through the lineup, and I think we match up really good against them," the 21-year-old Doughty was saying after the morning skate. "There's no doubts in our minds that we're a better team than them. Tonight we've got to show that."
"We've got to come out hard in the first period, take it to them, let them know that we're going to be the hardest-working team out there," the Los Angeles blue-liner said. "Once that happens, hopefully we get some goals and keep them off the scoreboard."
Positive game plan, positive result. In the latest instalment of Sutter vs. Sutter, the Kings prevailed 3-0 to deliver a devastating blow to Calgary's already slim playoff hopes.
The reeling Flames woke up Thursday morning in 11th place with 85 points — three back of seventh-place Los Angeles and eighth-place San Jose. The Kings and the Sharks have a game in hand.
Four games remain for Calgary, with Colorado coming to town Friday.
"We're not out of it yet," Brent Sutter murmured. "Obviously, you have to run the table, and you're going to need some help."
True to Doughty's word, the Kings held a 6-1 advantage on the shot clock before the game was even two minutes old. The first line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams hemmed the Flames helplessly in their own zone.
The opening strike came at 5:30 when Willie Mitchell fired a shot that somehow dribbled through goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who surrendered a weak goal for the third straight game.
Four minutes into the second period, the Kings capitalized on a terrible break out by Calgary's top line. Kopitar threaded the puck across to Brown. With no Flame in the same area code, he picked his spot and ripped the puck under Kiprusoff's arm to make it 2-0.
In what was dubbed a goaltending dual, Jonathan Quick clearly came out on top — although Kiprusoff made several highlight-reel saves along the way.
Kiprusoff might not be at the top of his game, but he has plenty of company in the Calgary dressing room. Flames captain Jarome Iginla has no goals in his last seven games. Curtis Glencross is on an eight-game scoring drought.
"I wasn't nearly good enough tonight," Iginla said. "Tonight I didn't generate anything. It's not just myself. We all feel it. We all want to be a difference.
"It definitely stings."
With Kiprusoff on the bench, Williams scored an empty netter with 1:09 remaining in the game to seal the win.
"They were just the better hockey team — plain and simple," Brent Sutter said in his post-game media conference. "I'm not going to sit here and give you guys reasons why this didn't happen for us and this didn't happen for us.
"The bottom line is we played a team that played better than we did here tonight."
As for Doughty's pre-game bravado, the defenceman — and his team — backed it up to the letter.
With the game — and likely their season — on the line, the Flames mustered just four shots in the third period. When David Moss threw a harmless one from centre ice on Quick, the home fans responded with a Bronx cheer.
Boos echoed through the Saddledome for most of the final 20 minutes. With time winding down, a disgruntled spectator threw a Flames jersey on the ice. Tom Kostopoulos kindly scooped it up and threw it back over the glass.
Something — no one is quite sure what, because Kostopoulos declined to comment after the game — angered the Flames forward to the point he smacked his stick on the glass in disgust.
It was that kind of night.
And, barring a miracle, that kind of season.
© Copyright (c) canada.com