Calgary suffers crushing blow with a colossal collapse in Denver
Flames blow 3-0 and 4-2 leads, fall 5-4 to Colorado Avalanche
DENVER — A late lead lost in Minny.
A big lead blown 48 hours later in Denver.
And the Calgary Flames are left to pick through the debris field of shattered confidence, compromised ambition, tarnished reputation. With no one but themselves to blame.
Gag! Hack! Choke! Sputter! Wheeze!
“We’re up 3-0 and 4-2,” muttered Jarome Iginla sombrely. “There’s no excuse. That’s terrible.
“Every one of us is embarrassed. That’s as hard as any loss this year. There’s no way that should happen.
“We stopped skating. We did everything you talk about not going. You go into a shell. You shoot the puck away. We know we’re supposed to play the same way, we talk about it, but we don’t play the same way when we’re up.
“There’s no way we shouldn’t win that game. This trip we gave away three points.”
Capitulation. There’s no other word to describe Thursday’s mortifying 5-4 loss to the home standing Colorado Avalanche. Complete and utter capitulation.
Imagine, ahead 3-0 and apparently cruising after a period. Up a deuce, 4-2, at the conclusion of the second ... and then complete collapse. Total ruin.
“We gave it away,” muttered Alex Tanguay. “We just ... stopped playing.
“We have to be aggressive. We have to be skating. We have to be on the puck. Instead, we give them time. We’re lazy. We make stupid mistakes.
“I made one on the last goal. On top of that, they get a break. I thought it was offside.”
Too soft. Too fragile. Too ... too familiar.
“I’ve watched many games from last year, and it seems to be the same song,” condemned coach Bob Hartley afterwards.
“The only explanation I can give you guys is that we thought it would be easy. On every goal some major breakdowns, whether it’s bad decisions or lack of effort.
“But, like, that’s our team.”
“We played,” Hartley went on, “a great first period and we still found a way to throw it in the dumpster.
“There was not much battle until we were down 5-4.”
A three-goal Colorado blitz in the closing period condemned the all-but-helpless Flames to their ignominious fate. Centre Matt Duchene, in harness after missing one start due to a groin injury, struck for the fifth goal, swatting home past Joey MacDonald from in tight after Jamie McGinn had chipped the puck in front, at 10:52.
By that time it all seemed so inevitable.
The Avalanche struck insanely early in the third period, at 23 seconds, to ratchet up the heat on the visitors, captain Gabriel Landeskog demonstrating his power-forward prowess, churning around Calgary defenceman T.J. Brodie before poking the puck past MacDonald one-handed.
The lack of typified Calgary’s effort.
Then, at 6:34, the Flames’ netminder spit back a big rebound of a Landeskog shot that struck the skate boot of an onrushing Paul Stastny and caromed in.
The play went under immediate review but the goal allowed to stand. Suddenly, the Flames were against the ropes, glassy-eyed and wobbling.
Apparently dead and buried 3-0 after a lousy first period, the Avalanche came surging back in the second. They opened their account at 5:11, defenceman Ryan O’Byrne’s shot from the right point beating a screened MacDonald.
Only seconds later, MacDonald stemmed the mounting tide at least momentarily, closing the wickets on a Jamie McGinn deflection from prime territory, in the high slot.
Mounting Colorado pressure paid off again, though. MacDonald turned back Landeskog from point-blank range, set up from behind the net by Paul Stastny, but right winger Cody Jones was on hand to deposit the leftovers: 3-2.
Game very much on.
“I think we showed how much character we have in this room,” said Landeskog, magnificent on the night. “After that first period we all had a sour taste in the room. It just wasn’t good enough. It was embarrassing, that first period. We just had to respond, and everyone did it.”
An ill-advised boarding penalty to Colorado left winger Patrick Bordeleau for taking a run at Akim Aliu, however, might’ve sapped some of the juice out of the comeback, as Iginla counted his second of the evening and fifth of the season to restore a two-goal lead.
On this night, though, the Avalanche were not to be denied.
And the Flames weren’t in any mood to put up much of a fight.
“We had the game 3-zip,” said Hartley with flat finality. “We just didn’t deserve it. They deserve the credit. They outworked us in the second. They outworked us in the third.
“That’s a very easy law in sports: Usually the team that wants it most, gets it.”
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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Calgary Flames left winger Sven Baertschi, right, avoids the puck as it flies past his head after his wraparound shot was deflected by Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov on Thursday night. Calgary blew 3-0 and 4-2 leads to lose 5-4.
Photograph by: David Zalubowski, AP