Johnson: Flames slide into Olympic break on a positive note despite 2-1 loss to Flyers
PHILADELPHIA - The frustration, still painfully fresh, was clearly evident in Matt Stajan’s face. In the soft timbre of his voice and the slight, restless droop of his shoulders.
Stajan’s demeanor reflected the scoreline, yes, but also the increased ambition the Calgary Flames have come to impose on themselves of late.
"We had our chances,’’ sighed the veteran centreman. "They had some, too. (Reto) Berra made some good saves and their goalie made some big saves.
"Both their goals were preventable when we look at them on tape, kind of scramble plays. That’s the way it is in the league. People watch the games closely, every game’s like that. Even the games we win. A couple bounces go the other way and we don’t win.
"There was a lot of ice out there to make plays. But you’ve got to score more than one goal. So we can’t be satisfied.’’
The Flames slide into the Olympic break on the heels of a back-and-forth, give-and-take 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, who really should raise a glass to toast puck-stopper Ray Emery’s sharp performance.
Calgary pelted 32 shots on Emery.
They missed the net in on a slew of others.
Yes, a lack of direction and Emery were the difference, although that casts no aspersions on Berra, who was very fine, too. There was some highlight-reel stuff in the 21 stops he produced.
"Yes, he was huge for us,’’ said Flyers’ D-man Andrej Meszaros of Emery. "He won us the game , kept us in when it was 0-0 and 1-0 and then we got the second goal even though they scored in the end, he was incredible.’’
Scant consolation to the losing side, naturally.
"I think we’ve been playing good hockey,’’ said Stajan. "We’ve been in every game. Even the game in Montreal we could’ve got. Sometimes the hockey gods don’t reward you.’’
Calgary hopped aboard a charter flight around 5 p.m. local time having dropped two of three on the pre-Olympic road junket - a 2-0 loss in Montreal and a 4-2 win at Long Island pre-dated Saturday’s squeaker.
For the Flyers, centre Braden Schenn, the best non-masked Philadelphian on this afternoon, cashed an opportunistic chance in the second period and then early in the third an equally predatory play from captain Claude Giroux wound up glancing off Scott Hartnell and in, leaving Berra stranded.
Down a deuce and time draining away, the Flames could’ve mentally had their minds on the bus to the airport, the charter flight home and those upcoming 10 days of R&R. Instead, they refused to give up hope, continued to grind away and were rewarded when Stajan followed up a shot of his own blocked by the Philly defence and slotted in with 2:26 remaining - avoiding an eighth whitewash this season - to give the Flyers and the 19,874 gathered at the Wells Fargo Center pause for thought.
"Yeah, a tough one,’’ concurred Berra, who leaves tomorrow via NHL charter from New York to Sochi. "I thought first period they were better, second period we were better and third period we were better again. It’s hard when you just score with two minutes left for the game.
"But we were fighting. So we can go with a good mindset into this (break)."
Outside of the final scoreline, Flames’ boss Bob Hartley had few regrets.
"Everyone worked hard. On the blueline, I feel that T.J. Brodie had another real strong effort. Up front I had balance from everyone.
"They have a good hockey club. Their best players came to play. Emery made some good saves. So it’s a game that we could leave today with two points. We leave with zero but at the same time I’m proud of the game we played.’’
Proud, but unsatisfied.
Stajan could manage only a slight, wistful smile when reminded that, despite the irritiaton he was feeling at the moment, he shouldn’t forget that his group had won six of eight heading into this Olympic adjournment.
"Seven,’’ Stajan countered without batting an eyelash, "would’ve been better.’’
NOTES: Post-game, it was announced that standout defenceman Kris Russell has signed a contract extension with the Flames, paying him $2.6 million per annum for two years. Sochi-bound D-man Lladislav Smid missed the third period due to a lower-body injury but Hartley said it won’t affect his to play for the Czech Republic team.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/Georgejohnson
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