Flames sink further after losing eighth-straight road game, 5-3 in Nashville
Calgary was outmuscled, outhustled and outcompeted by a fellow languishing Western Conference squad
Nashville winger Brandon Yip, front, collides with Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff as a shot by Predators’ Nick Spaling, not shown, goes into the net for a controversial goal in the second period.
Photograph by: Mark Humphrey, AP
NASHVILLE — The unmistakable stench of death is upon them.
Rigor mortis has begun to set in. Belief is fading. Grim reality setting in.
The sights, the sounds, of this march into mediocrity is oh-so-familiar. The harassed general manager Jay Feaster, avoiding eye contact, hurrying past in case someone should perhaps recognize him or, horrors!, attempt to stop him for a word. Players speaking in hushed whispers. Dumbfounded looks, like sleepwalkers who’ve awoken to find themselves on the roof of a building, hanging perilously over the drain pipe.
“Whenever the puck gets in our zone,” lamented coach Bob Hartley, “it seems we find a way to get in trouble or give it away. Dallas was the same story, and many other games.
“It’s not a matter of one guys or two guys or three guys. It’s a matter of knowing how to play this game and especially how to win.”
So the Flames’ misery, and ineptitude, on the road extends to eight games (0-7-1) with a thoroughly-deserved 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.
“Unacceptable,” murmured defenceman Mark Giordano.
Throw in abysmal and deplorable, at least to get the gist of the thing.
Losing to Anaheim and L.A. on the road is one thing. Being schooled by the Stars and Preds — a Nashville team frantically trying to keep its head above water and missing four key players — speaks volumes about your character.
This wasn’t the first egg the Flames have laid on their travels in the past month, of course. They’ve dropped enough now to whip up an omelette the size of a manhole cover.
Where were they bad? Where do you start?
Two of the three components of Calgary’s so-called big line — Michael Cammalleri and Alex Tanguay — were each minus-2. Cory Sarich, returned to the lineup for a rare turn this season, will likely be back in the press box Friday after a minus-2 evening. Jay Bouwmeester, T.J. Brodie, Chris Butler were minus-2, too. The tattered defensive coverage that’s become such an issue on their travels was, as Hartley reiterated, ripped asunder again.
Worst of all, captain Jarome Iginla, the subject of frenzied trade speculation, finished an unbecoming minus-3. Why, when he scored a purely cosmetic goal late he didn’t even have the heart to celebrate.
“As a line, tonight, in the first two periods, (Mike) Fisher’s line was very good and they outplayed us,” Iginla was the first to acknowledge. “Myself, Tangs and Cammy know we weren’t nearly as good. You get matched up on the road and we’re competitive guys and you want that matchup, and we got outplayed tonight.
“A lot of guys were going and we got outplayed, our line. We didn’t help carry the load. We had to be able to push back against them, and for two periods we didn’t.
“We know that some of us weren’t nearly good enough.’’
A lead, then two, didn’t help them. Not even Giordano recording multiple short-handed points in a period for the first time by a Flame since Derek Morris back on Oct. 7th, 1997, versus the Colorado Avalanche could spur them.
“It was the perfect scenario,” moaned Hartley. “I felt like we started the game we wanted to start with. With jump. We wanted to get the first goal and it’s exactly what we did.
“But giveaways simply killed us.”
Lee Stempniak showed spunk. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff got his dander up after being crowded and left unsighted and tried to battle.
But no sort of pushback, not enough tenacity, by the group as a whole.
Tied 2-2 after a wild first, the Flames began losing the plot 13 minutes into Period 2.
Nashville assumed its initial lead, 3-2, as every gent in the Calgary livery got caught mesmerized on one side of the ice and Roman Josi’s backhand pass across the face of goal from the far boards avoided a tangle of sticks and shinpads to land directly at the feet of Fisher.
Fisher was so absolutely alone he could’ve spun around three times and still pushed the puck in with his forehead. Wisely, he decided to simply tap the puck into a wide-open net.
That strike was followed up by a controversial goal, a pass from Nashville D-man Victor Bartley deflecting in off centre Nick Spaling’s right skate. Kiprusoff, meanwhile, was lying flat on the mat after a WWF-style takedown, a Predator curled atop of him.
The play was reviewed and allowed to stand. The rest was a lesson in killing time.
So the Flames slip two games under. 500 and blow another opportunity to at least hold their own by beating a direct opponent with playoff aspirations.
That’s what’s called nutting up.
“More than just looking at the standings and saying ‘We’re this many points back ...’, we need to get above .500,” murmured Iginla. “That’s a start first.
“This one stings. At this point, as you’re counting down games, every loss feels worse than the last.
“We know where we stand and how much time is left and the desperation of the situation.”
They why not PLAY like it?!
Somehow they must pick up sagging spirits for a date tonight at Nationwide Arena against the league’s hottest team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, sitting at home, waiting.
Licking their lips no, doubt.
“I know hockey’s a game of mistakes,” griped Hartley. “But we’re making way too many mistakes. We’re not losing momentum, we’re GIVING momentum. That’s the sad part. Obviously, when you give away the puck in a situation where the puck should be out, that leaves a mark. It doesn’t only leave a mark on the player that turns the puck over.
“Right now our confidence is so fragile that it seems we can’t overcome it.”
They’re almost ready for a toe-tag.
We, and they, have gone through this scenario before, of course. It’s become as familiar to them as their names.
And always, always ends in a premature autopsy and nasty repercussions.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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