Johnson: Frustration reaches a boiling point


Fan’s jersey toss punctuates sour and dour night for the Flames

A Flames jersey tossed by a fan falls behind Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos on Wednesday night.

A Flames jersey tossed by a fan falls behind Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos on Wednesday night.

Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

Well, that euphoria was certainly short lived.

Limp. Lame. Lethargic.

As one particularly droll wit summed up in the media/staff elevator heading down to the suddenly-silent catacombs of the Scotiabank Saddledome: The Quick and the Dead.

The Quick would be Jonathan. The Dead? Well, you get the drift . . .

Frustrations on all sides boiled over in the final minute of Wednesday’s sobering fizzle against the L.A. Kings when an irked fan tossed his Calgary Flames’ jersey onto the ice in disgust. Tom Kostopoulos tossing it back. Apparently something of a derogatory nature was uttered by said patron, and Kostopoulos — who declined comment afterwards — noisily slammed his stick on the glass.

The particulars are still hazy.

Yes, it was that kind of night. Ill-tempered. Sour. Disheartening. And so, so damaging.

“It just wasn’t . . . sharp at all,’’ murmured Michael Cammalleri. “That starts making it look ugly. You start working in the wrong directions. You’re not working in sync. It wasn’t good enough. And it’s not good enough to say it wasn’t good enough. And there’s no reason for not being good right now.”

“It probably comes off looking like a lack of other things,” Cammalleri continued. “Trust me, guys in here want to win.’’

Bizarre way of showing it.

The Calgary Flames were full value for a 3-0 stinker that has thrown their faint playoff hopes even deeper into turmoil.

The Kings were simply too slick. Too determined. Better in each and every area. Worst, they WANTED it more. And that, for a team with the modest makeup of the Flames, under these dire circumstances, is inexcusable.

“We didn’t,’’ lamented Cammalleri, “have any urgency.

“Our decision making, both ways . . . all over the ice, and I don’t mean decision-making in just the critical areas, the areas that don’t look so critical but wind up being scoring chances the other way. It was a step slow tonight for us, and theirs was probably a step quick.

“That not gonna do it.’’

Overrun early (L.A. pelted Miikka Kiprusoff with seven shots over the first 127 seconds), the Flames were taken out back to the woodshed and given an old-fashioned over-the-knee spanking. They were never able to really find their footing from the initial onslaught on, and veteran campaigner Willie Mitchell’s shot between Kiprusoff’s wickets at 5:20 seemed to siphon whatever self-belief they had left.

Mitchell, he of the retractable cue, was immense on the L.A. blueline, by the way, complementing Drew Doughty and Rob Scuderi.

L.A.’s top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jason Williams were all plus-3 and five points. By comparison, the Flames’ top unit — Camalleri, Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay — generated three shots. Combined.

And backstopping the whole L.A. enterprise, the marvellous Quick. His best save: A battling faceoff loss/win by Iginla, diving past Jarret Stoll to bat the puck diagonally to a completely unattended Alex Tanguay. With the benefit of scads of time, Tanguay kept sliding wide, but Quick was able to flatten his left pad and the Flames’ left-winger had run out of room and in the end couldn’t lift his shot high enough, fast enough.

The Flames seemed a step behind all night long. The locals were certainly caught napping on L.A.’s second goal, Kings’ captain Dustin Brown gaining the zone, dropping the puck between his skates to Anze Kopitar and then drifting cunningly into the slot. No one, fatally, paid him any heed.

Sensing Calgary’s slumbers, Kopitar returned the favour, and Brown zipped the puck far side past Kiprusoff at 4:22 of the second.

From there, the Flames could muster precious little pushback and so fall three points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with only four games remaining to be contested.

Jethro Bodine could do the math.

With the a third consecutive springtime of no playoffs staring them square in the kisser, the faithful began to air their displeasure as the listless effort wound to a merciful close. It’s been awhile since so much booing was directed at the local darlings.

“Fans of the game,’’ said Cammalleri, “are passionate. They want to see playoff hockey. Trust me, the support here is fantastic. It was obviously a very disappointing night for everybody. Especially probably the fan base.

“Yeah there were some boos. That’s fine. That’s just them expressing their displeasure. They wanted to see a hard-fought game.

“I’m a fan of sports. I’m a fan of the game. I can relate to those feelings. At the same time, as we’re coming off at the end, the fans by our bench are offering words of encouragement. That’s Calgary fans for you.

“I remember playing here last time, we thought we had a team that could do really well, we lost in the first round. I remember being afraid to go out for dinner for a couple days, to kinda hide, I was so embarrassed. But the first night we went out for dinner, I couldn’t believe people were sending over bottles of wine.’’

A repeat of Wednesday’s whimper against the Colorado Avalanche next time out, and they might be throwing them.

George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at

A Flames jersey tossed by a fan falls behind Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos on Wednesday night.

A Flames jersey tossed by a fan falls behind Calgary’s Tom Kostopoulos on Wednesday night.

Photograph by: Dean Bicknell, Calgary Herald

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