Deep, talented Blues hand Flames their second-straight loss
Calgary comes up short, 3-2, at hands of one of the NHL’s elite teams
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — To recap this 2013-14 National Hockey League season so far, the Calgary Flames have already been faced with some of the most skilled teams in the 30-team loop — and won.
They beat the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center 3-2 in overtime on Sunday. On Oct. 26, they took down the sublimely skilled Washington Capitals 5-2. And, on Oct. 21, they beat the 2012 Cup champion Los Angeles Kings 3-2.
So, with another deep-threat opponent on the docket — the offensively-blessed and defensively-sound St. Louis Blues — the visiting Flames took them to the edge in similar fashion, battling back from a 3-0 hole after 40 minutes.
But, in the end, they weren’t able to get the job in Thursday’s 3-2 loss.
“The whole moral victory thing is tough,” said Flames winger Mike Cammalleri, as the team packed their bags to catch the charter plane immediately after the game. “We’re all competitors. No matter how old or young you are in the group, you want to get the win. I don’t think you have time to do either.
“Get on a plane and go play Colorado (Friday) and worry about winning a hockey game against a good team.”
And, of course, things won’t get any easier against the 12-2-0 Avalanche at Denver’s Pepsi Center to wrap up a four-game road swing through the NHL’s Central Division.
Coming off Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Flames have dropped two in a row. This current stretch away from the Scotiabank Saddledome has them 1-2-0 and 3-6-1 on the season while sitting at 12th in the Western Conference (6-8-2).
“We’re not expecting the word easy to be associated with any success against anybody,” Cammalleri continued. “The teams we’re playing right now have, no doubt, earned some respect around the league and rightfully so. They do a lot of things that make them effective. At the same time, we’ve proved that if we play the way we want, we can compete with anybody.”
Which they had done for the final 20 minutes.
Down by three goals, the Flames received some life from Tim Jackman early in the final frame. The gritty winger scored his first goal of the season 4:41 in as he shovelled a backhander past Brian Elliott — a rebound from Shane O’Brien’s point shot. It was still 3-1 at that point with a lot of time left in the game.
Then Cammalleri, stepping up in the absence of the injured Curtis Glencross, made it 3-2 when Elliott kicked out another huge rebound (St. Louis native Chris Butler’s slapshot) to his left.
The first 40 minutes, however, were a completely different story as Calgary was outshot 11-2 in the opening period and couldn’t seem to get anything going.
They were also snake-bitten on six straight power-plays, including two in the final frame and one when Vladimir Sobotka was off for a faceoff violation after Calgary had come within one goal. Before that, they were gift-wrapped nearly four full power-plays in the second — and seven at the game’s end.
“I’d like to buy one,” said head coach Bob Hartley of the man advantage unit which is converting right now at 12.9 per cent (25th in the league). “I know the guys are working, but, right now, it just seems we can’t turn the red light on the power play. Especially late in the game like (Thursday). It would have been perfect timing but we’re going to keep working.”
The Blues went up 3-0 with 5:55 into the second period just as a high-sticking infraction to Derek Roy expired and Alex Steen — the product of a Lee Stempniak trade back in 2008-09 when he was dealt away from Toronto — was left all alone in front to net his league-leading 14th goal of the year.
To their credit, they did show considerable jump in the middle frame, out-shooting the home side 10-7. Still, they had dug themselves into a deep hole.
Max Reinhart, playing in his first NHL game of the season since an 11-game stint in the lockout-shortened 2012-13, took an interference penalty as he took down Adam Cracknell into the Flames’ zone. It didn’t take long for the Blues to attack and defenceman Alex Pietrangelo nearly put them on the board when he smoked a post with a perfectly-placed slapshot. Shortly after, Vladimir Tarasenko capitalized on the scrambling Flames and snapped St. Louis up 1-0 with their third shot on net and 1:01 left in Reinhart’s penalty.
The Blues took the wind out of the Flames’ sails again when Maxim Lapierre tipped Jordan Leopold’s shot at the 10-minute mark. At the game’s end, St. Louis out-shot the Flames 27-20 while Swiss netminder Reto Berra made his third straight start for Calgary.
“We made it tough on ourselves,” Hartley said. “When you give up a goal so early in the game, they generated momentum. But we never quit. I felt we got back in the game, maybe too little too late. But at least we showed lots of character. The guys never quit.”
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