Flames fizzle after fiery opening frame, fall to Sharks
Calgary's solid opening 20 goes for naught as wheels come off in 4-1 defeat
Dennis Wideman had some idea of what to expect. But, certainly, he didn’t envision a home-ice debut this dandy, this glorious.
Chances galore, every line churning.
Fans buzzing, frequently roaring. Opposing goalie barely, barely, barely, hanging on.
Yes, all of that.
Then . . . came the second period.
Because for Wideman and the rest of his Calgary Flames, the opening 20 minutes had been undeniably fantastic. Lee Stempniak, on the power play, got the locals on the board — but that wasn’t even the most impressive display of the first period.
Mikael Backlund, skating with unprecedented dash, split the defence on one occasion.
Young and old made music — rookie Sven Baertschi pinged the post, greybeard Steve Begin clanked the cross-bar — as the Flames peppered San Jose Sharks netminder Antti Niemi with 16 shots, many of them dangerous.
Dominating, without question.
But the Sharks, slugs out of the gate, woke up in time to slide three second-period pucks past Miikka Kiprusoff en route to a home-opener-spoiling 4-1 decision Sunday in National Hockey League action at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“The first period was loud — we had (the fans) going,” Wideman said after his first appearance as a member of the Flames. “But as the game went on, we didn’t give them a whole lot to cheer about. That’s on us. We kind of lost our legs a little bit, I guess. We were a step behind.
“We were really good in the first. We came at them hard. We were skating well. We took it to them. Maybe it could have been 2-0.”
Or 3-0 or 4-0 or 5-0.
Posts aside, Niemi was that strong.
“We had some great chances, myself included, to make it a two- or three (-goal lead),” said Jarome Iginla.
“Not doing that, we’ve still got to find ways to play the same way in the second period. We didn’t stay in that confident, aggressive mode.”
Because the Flames didn’t extend their lead, the Sharks had been left within easy striking distance. Meaning the hosts were susceptible if the travellers shook themselves conscious.
And they did. The Sharks took over in the second period, outshooting the Flames 14-4 and scoring three times in little more than four minutes.
The first had been a thing of beauty.
With Flames defender Chris Butler off for roughing — Tommy Wingels had bumped Kiprusoff — the Sharks’ power-players went to work.
They needed only seven ticks of the game clock.
The local side actually gained possession, Jay Bouwmeester sliding the puck behind the net for Mark Giordano. But Joe Thornton stripped Giordano and, in one motion, skittered a perfect pass for Patrick Marleau, who sunk the thing at 13:52.
“We lost some momentum,” said Wideman, “and never got it back. And that team like that, that’s been playing together for a long time, they’re going to make you pay. That’s a good hockey team. You can’t have those little breakdowns.
At 15:05, Martin Havlat made it 2-1.
Marleau rapped in another at 18:10.
“They won the game in the second period, there’s no question . . . they took it away and won it there,” said Iginla. “That’s the way hockey games go. It’s not very often you’re going to control it for a whole game. We know they’re getting in crap (from coach Todd McLellan in the first intermission). We have to be ready. As soon as they got a little bit of life, we didn’t stop it there.
“We watched them, gave them a lot more time. They’re a team that can make some good plays when they have time. They did that in the second.”
Despite the two-goal deficit, the Flames came out for the third period with some steam. Unanswered, they directed seven more shots on Niemi. However, they were unable to find any scoring traction.
In fact, the period’s lone goal went to Dan Boyle, who capitalized, five-on-three, at 19:00.
“It’s nice to at least feel, early in the season, that we have a style that we can play,” said Iginla. “It sucks losing, there’s no question, but there are some things we’re going to take from this and build on.
“There were some points that we can look at and say, ‘Hey, if we play this way, we can be very effective.’ ”
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