January 03 2014 09:42PM
The Flames have been absolutely snake-bit since the holiday break ended and that didn't change tonight after a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It's sadly ironic that the club's offense has gone south just as the goaltending has started to look NHL-caliber, but such is the life of Flames fans these days.
The first period was mostly dominated by Tampa Bay, who were foiled by several posts and some superb play by Karri Ramo. The Lightning fired 13 shots on net, with five of those coming off an early powerplay thanks to newest Flame Kevin Westgarth pushing over Ben Bishop in the Tampa crease for some reason.
The Flames had a late period pushback when Mikael Backlund generated a partial breakaway and then a Lightning penalty off of a blocked shot. Michael Cammalleri actually managed to bat in a rebound after Backlund's initlal shot on the play, but the referee had already blown the play dead. Calgary has had a lot of problems scoring recently, but it doesn't help that they keep getting legitimate goals disallowed as well.
Despite the Backlund powerplay, Calgary only ended up with 5 shots on net and probably only two or three real scoring chances in the entire period. They were lucky to escape the first frame with the score 0-0.
Ramo couldn't hold the fort in the second period, however. The Lightning continued to control play and they opened the scoring about 5 minutes in thanks to a top corner wrist shot by Ondrej Palat. They extended their lead to two five minutes later when a Nikita Kucherov finished off a two-on-one passing play with a tip into the empty net. Both goals came a few seconds after Mike Cammalleri stepped out of the penalty box, who had himself a bit of a rough period.
The Flames only had 13 shots on net through two periods, with just a handful of chances and periods of sustained pressure. In addition, the zebras continued their run of bad work in Calgary when a Flames attack was cut short by a whistle for a Lightning player who lost his skate blade on the ice (usually, this doesn't warrant a stoppage in play). With their continued offensive struggles, Calgary sure could use a few calls to go their way for a change.
The third didn't bring any relief to the Flames frustrations. The club began to press frantically to break Ben Bishop's shut-out and managed to get a few more quality looks at the net, but continued to shoot pucks wide, into blocks, or at the goaltender's chest. In their quest for a goal, Calgary also gave up a number of chances against, including four (!!) different break-aways, all of which were turned away by Ramo, who was excellent despite the loss.
The bid to avoid yet another shut-out was snuffed out when Mark Giordano took a penalty in the last few minutes with the goalie pulled.
Not a lot to choose from on a night like this. Mikael Backlund had a few good shifts and Paul Byron was probably the only Flame who seemed consistently dangerous. That said, this has to go to Karri Ramo who stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced, many of the high quality variety. It could have been a much uglier evening had he not been on his game.
Sum it Up
We all knew there was going to be periods like this when the org pressed the "rebuild" button. The Flames weren't as good as they seemed when everything was going in for them to start the season and they probably aren't as bad as they seem now, but it's been a tough stretch to sit through for everyone in Flamesland.
With 1 goal in the last 4 games and pretty much everyone in the league aside from the Sabres and Oilers pulling away, the lone good news is a top-5 pick in the 2014 draft is becoming more and more likely.