Flames lose seventh-straight road game with 4-3 setback in Dallas
Calgary fails to recover from early 3-0 deficit and fall three points behind Western Conference rival
Calgary’s Curtis Glenncross looks to track down the puck in front of Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen on Monday.
Photograph by: Glenn James, NHLI via Getty Images
DALLAS — Not that he should’ve had to send up a flare in the first place, but Bob Hartley had warned them what was in store.
“When you get slapped like this it’s a sad part of our business,” the Calgary Flames’ boss emphasized of the 8-1 hiding the embarrassed Dallas Stars had been made to absorb in their last home outing, Saturday night against Chicago, “but it brings out the best out of everyone. On our side, we have no gifts to make to no one. We have to play to win. We have to keep playing the kind of hockey that made us a very good team at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“Very simple, very disciplined, on the job.
“I told them this morning, don’t focus on what happened to Dallas. We’re all aware of it. Focus on what we can control and that’s our game.”
Obviously, no one was paying the slightest bit of attention.
And, oh yes, they do have gifts to make. And to gift wrap. And to hand deliver.
That opening 20 minutes borne out of the imagination of the Marquis de Sade, for example.
A valiant second-period fightback wasn’t enough to overcome a utterly rancid start as Calgary’s woes on their travels stretched to seven games (0-6-1) in a gutting 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena on Monday night.
“We can agree that they came hard,” muttered Hartley, eight hours after his earlier caution. “But we gave (away) four goals. Plain and simple. In a game there’s goals against but there’s also goals that you give.
“And we gave the four goals.
“It’s four goals that are totally not acceptable. Especially three against a team that just got beat real bad. You knew. That’s the unfortunate thing of our situation. We make many miscues in our zone, many misreads and they end up in our net.
“We have to learn to play defence. If we can’t play in our own zone it’s pretty tough to win games. That’s where championship teams start the building blocks.
“If you look at tonight, we have lots of work to do.”
Even the bounceback wasn’t enough to cheer Hartley.
“To get beat 12-zip or to get beat 5-3 or 4-2, it’s the end result that counts. To push back, to push back, to push back doesn’t bring you to the big dance.”
The Flames haven’t won on the road since their last trip in here, Feb. 17th. An ominous sign.
Loui Eriksson’s second of the night at 12:06 turned out to be the game winner, but Alex Tanguay answered back three minutes later on goaltender Kari Lehtonen, setting the stage for a frantic finish.
“We feel like we just lost a big hockey game,” said Matt Stajan softly. “The first period’s part of the game. We had two shots until late in that period. That’s on us. No excuses. We’ve gotta be better at the start of the game.”
Even if Calgary had managed to mount a bit of a territorial fightback, the Stars were in complete control, ahead three, until Cody Eakin had a severe brain cramp, dropping Stajan to the ice for no earthy reason.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time, for Jiri Hudler promptly deflected a T.J. Brodie point shot behind Lehtonen at 11:30.
The scales tipped back closer to level when Stars’ defenceman Jordie Benn was caught hooking Lee Stempniak. Sure as shootin’, a minute and a half later Jay Bouwmeester saunters out from beside the net and makes the difficult look easy, roofing a backhander to whittle the deficit to a goal.
That degree of uprising had seemed nothing so much as a pipe dream a half-hour earlier.
Dallas rung up the game’s opening six shots and Antoine Roussel missed a penalty shot try (after being hooked by Mark Giordano) before they began to assert their early authority. The first goal, to be fair, was a stroke of good fortune, Erik Cole’s centring pass banking in off the right skate of Derek Smith and behind Joey MacDonald.
Another deflection, this one off Bouwmeester, almost doubled the advantage, but ricocheted off the far post and stayed out.
The Stars were not to be deterred for long, however, and in short order ex-Flame Eric Nystrom pounced on a rebound after breaking out alongside Roussel, with Calgary’s big line of Jarome Iginla, Michael Cammalleri and Tanguay all taking a real good look.
Things only got worse.
Even an Iginla set-to couldn’t drag the visitors out of their somnambulistic trance. Sensing the need for an emotional spur, the captain shucked the mitts and headgear to tangle with Eakin.
Usually, the sight of No. 12 in fistic fury serves as a galvanizing source for his mates.
But while the two men were serving their five-minute sentences, the wily old creator, Ray Whitney, slipped Eriksson a superb pass and he buried it for a massive 3-0 Dallas lead.
By that point, this wasn’t merely a hill to climb. It was the Matterhorn.
“Everyone knew it was coming,” murmured Curtis Glencross. “And we stood back and . . . watched. We didn’t take the initiative and play the way we had to off the top.
“These three games on this road trip are four-point games for us. We can’t except to jump in the standings if we play 40 minutes, 30 minutes, a game.
The enormity of this loss, the gravity of their situation, wasn’t lost on anyone in a shroud-like dressing room afterwards. A win, and they could’ve vaulted past four teams — gone from 14th and into, technically, 10th. As it stands, they fall three points behind Dallas in the quagmire congealing around the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
And the goo just gets harder and harder to navigate.
“It sucks,” said Stajan. “That’s why we feel the way we do. Tomorrow’s a new day, I guess. This one stings but we’ve got to find a way to get some points on the road on this trip.”
Or, it goes without saying, else.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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