Calgary Flames left winger Mike Cammalleri (13) shoots and scores on Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Los Angeles Saturday, March 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
LOS ANGELES— For some reason, Saturday March 9, 2013 in downtown Los Angeles felt a lot like a regular Saturday night in the 403-area code.
Outside the Staples Center, Travel Alberta offered free mechanical bull rides. Calgary Stampede princesses mingled with hockey fans, and the locals played computerized golf in the virtual Rocky Mountains.
Inside the Staples Center, the Calgary Flames initially offered up a spirited fight, but fell in spectacular fashion to a bigger, stronger foe in the Los Angeles Kings by a lopsided score of 6-2.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
“It’s a tough one,” muttered head coach Bob Hartley. “It seems as soon as the puck was in our zone, they made us pay for it.”
Did they ever.
The game opened in disturbing fashion for the travellers. In the first minute, Mike Richards ripped a shot from centre ice at the Calgary net.
Somehow, the routine offering handcuffed Miikka Kiprusoff, bounced over his pad and kissed the post.
Consider the miscue a sign of things on a night to forget for the quiet Finn.
His final stats on the night: six goals allowed on 22 shots for a save percentage of .727 before receiving the mercy hook in favour of Joey MacDonald with 11:38 remaining.
“I’m not faulting Kipper,” Hartley said. “They were great shots ... It seemed like on every goal, there was something we didn’t execute well, and they made us pay for it.”
Post-game, Mark Giordano roared to the defence of his goaltender.
“He played fine,” Giordano said. “It was screened shots, tip-ins. No goalie is going to stop those ones. Those are goals that are going to go in on anyone. Kipper’s a great goalie. He’s playing great. His stats look ugly because we gave him too many screens, tips, tap-ins right in the crease.
“There’s not much he’s going to do about those ones.
On this night, the Flames actually appeared to strike first on a shot by Dennis Wideman. The officials waived it off due to Lee Stempniak landing on goalie Jonathan Quick (with help from Mike Richards.)
Clearly fuming, Hartley expressed displeasure with the call and the Flames received an “abuse of officials” penalty for voicing said opinion.
Predictably, the Kings made Calgary pay. Dustin Brown threw the puck across the crease for an easy tap in by Jeff Carter at 4:18.
“Those referees have a fraction of a second to make their call,” Hartley said. “I think it’s a classic case example for a coach’s challenge. But that’s what it is. You just don’t win with the referees.
“I shouldn’t have done it.”
The Flames roared back with a power-play marker of their own at 7:24. Enjoying a two-man advantage, Wideman delivered a perfect slap pass on the tape of Michael Cammalleri, and the diminutive sniper cashed in.
But the Kings kept coming. First, Jake Muzzin floated a wrist shot from the point that fluttered over the glove of Kiprusoff. Then Trevor Lewis took a feed from Slava Voynov and ripped it top shelf to make it 3-1 at 18:43.
Much to Darryl Sutter’s chagrin, the Kings surrendered a goal of their own with 17 seconds left in the first. Somehow, Giordano and Alex Tanguay slipped behind the Los Angeles defence. Giordano fed Tanguay to make it 3-2 heading into the intermission.
In just his third game back from a knee injury, Kiprusoff surrendered his fourth goal on just the 14th Kings shot of the night. This time, Justin Williams tipped in a Voynov point shot to send the crowd into full serenade mode of the Calgary goaltender.
Kiprusoff, 36, is not at the top of the game, which is to be expected after missing 13 contests with a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament. Still, the Flames badly need their meal-ticket netminder to play like himself for a shot at making the playoffs.
Time does not wait for anyone.
Los Angeles added two more in the third period: At 3:22, Anze Kopitar uncorked a wrist shot that beat Kiprusoff on the short side. Colin Fraser ended Kiprusoff’s night at 8:22 from the high slot.
With the loss, the Flames (9-10-4) fall one game below .500 and need to regroup for Monday’s back end of the doubleheader against the Kings.
C-Notes: Curtis Glencross missed the game with what the Flames are calling an upper-body injury (CBC cameras capture footage of the Calgary left winger taping up his right wrist.) Glencross will fly home Sunday for further evaluation by team doctors ... Flames C Matt Stajan collected his 300th point in the first period assisting on the goal by Tanguay ... Flames prospected Johnny Gaudreau registered six points Saturday in a 7-2 Boston College win over Vermont. Gaudreau has 46 points in just 31 games. ... Calgarian Kelly Hrudey was honoured Saturday on legends night at the Staples Centre with fans receiving bandana at the door in honour of the former Kings goaltender.
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