Flames fall flat in 5-1 defeat to Minnesota Wild
Rivals had the Calgarians running around in their own zone as they ran up the score
St. Paul, Minn. — Just two days before, the Calgary Flames had been congratulating themselves on defeating the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks while rookie goalie Reto Berra, making his National Hockey League debut, had been crowned with the team’s firefighters helmet as the hardest working player of the game.
On Tuesday, however, it seemed to be the complete opposite outcome in every way.
Their offence dried up. Their defensive coverage was disjointed. And Berra? Well, the 26-year-old Swiss netminder battled but couldn’t ward off the host Minnesota Wild who converted way too many chances in a dominant 5-1 dispatching of the Flames.
Yes, definitely a much different game than the 3-2 win over the ‘Hawks to open their four-game tour through the NHL’s Central Division.
The loss dropped the Flames to 6-7-2 while the 9-4-3 Wild kept rolling and won their seventh game at home this season.
And they were almost single-handedly beat by Minnesota’s top line of Mikko Koivu (a goal and two assists), Zach Parise (two goals and one assist), and Charlie Coyle (one assist in his first game returning from a knee injury).
To make matters worse, Calgary winger Curtis Glencross appeared to injure his knee in the second period and didn’t return.
The third period did the Flames in, though, when Justin Fontaine was left unmanned behind the net and skated in front to rip a wrister past Berra to make it 3-1. Zenon Konopka, 30 seconds later, beat Flames’ defenceman Dennis Wideman on a two-on-one along with Torrey Mitchell and put the Wild up 4-1.
Another breakdown allowed Parise to score his second of the evening to seal the deal with Minnesota’s fifth goal on 24 shots.
Jiri Hudler opened the scoring early, putting the Flames on the board 5:24 into the first period when he and winger Lance Bouma traded passes (which all started with defenceman Chad Billins, making his NHL debut) and he chipped in one past Josh Harding who’d just posted a 4-0 shutout against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
But after that, it all seemed to go downhill for the visitors who couldn’t manage to get anything past Harding, one of the NHL’s stingiest goalies.
A miscommunication between T.J. Brodie and T.J. Galiardi eventually allowed Wild captain Koivu to connect, depositing a feed from Parise. Still, only tied at 1-1, there was plenty of game left.
Operating the league’s second-best power play unit, the Wild took a 2-1 lead in the middle frame while Lance Bouma sat off for hooking — some fine movement by Ryan Suter who walked in and released a hard shot on Berra’s right pad, the rebound deposited by Parise.
It was a slow start as both sides were clogging shooting lanes — painfully evident when Kris Russell took an interference penalty with five minutes left in the first. Two seconds in, Koivu tripped Matt Stajan after the faceoff for a little four-on-four action.
Minnesota, which, heading into the game, had allowed the fewest shots on net per game in the league (23.6), allowed 17 Flames shots after two periods and 25 at the game’s end.
ICE CHIPS . . . The Flames scratched LW Sven Baertschi and D Derek Smith. Bouma was in on Calgary’s second line with Hudler and Sean Monahan, while Billins went in for Smith on a pairing with Shane O’Brien . . . LW Tim Jackman fought for the first time this season, dropping the gloves with Minnesota’s Clayton Stoner in the third period . . . Next up on this Flames road trip are the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
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