Time becoming a factor

Let the record show that Brent Sutter went to the backup goalie well once too often. Vesa Toskala had sparkling numbers in his first three appearances with the Calgary Flames but Sunday afternoon in Minnesota, he looked very much like the guy who was run out of Toronto.

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Sutter was obviously taken with Toskala’s two wins, including one against the Wild, and .944 save percentage in the Finn’s first 158 minutes for Calgary but perhaps the Flames boss should have paid closer attention to the .897 save percentage Toskala had previously posted in 12,467 minutes for the Sharks and Maple Leafs since the lockout. Toskala’s shaky performance was a significant factor in the Flames’ 4-3 loss to the Wild.

To be fair, Toskala made several exceptional saves in the early going of the Sunday matinee as the Flames got off to a frightfully slow start, but then he allowed two poor goals and one so-so tally on 12 shots before getting the hook. Despite a dominant finish, Calgary was unable to overcome the 3-1 deficit Toskala left behind as the Flames’ playoff hopes took another serious hit.

It’s believed Miikka Kiprusoff had indicated to the Flames he was feeling fatigued after his Olympic participation, but it’s worth noting he had played just two games plus one period in the previous 10 days.

Despite Toskala’s early shower, it wasn’t all bad for the newish Flames on Sunday as Steve Staios and Ian White each potted their first Calgary goals (Eric Nystrom had the other Calgary marker).

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On the other hand, it was an even better game for ex-Flame Chuck Kobasew, who scored twice for Minnesota. Guillaume Latendresse and Flame-killer Andrew Brunette, with his 11th goal against Calgary in the past four seasons, also connected for the victors.

The weekend started out so promisingly for the Flames as they beat the Sharks on Friday while the Red Wings were in serious jeopardy of losing in regulation to the Oilers. As it turns out, Calgary suffered a net loss of one point to Detroit and burned two more games off the schedule.

There was a very scary moment for the Flames’ Daymond Langkow in the second period as the combination of a Greg Zanon interference and a sizzling shot by White left the centreman dazed. Langkow was stretchered off the ice and taken to hospital for precautionary reasons but the initial medical reports on his condition were encouraging.

Random comments

Statistical oddity — Miikka Kiprusoff played more of the game and allowed two fewer goals, but he nevertheless gets saddled wirh the loss because the one tally he allowed happened to the game-winner . . . Niklas Hagman picked up an assist Sunday but he and Ales Kotalik still have just produced a total of just two goals and eight points in 33 combined games since being acquired by Calgary . . . Yes, we all know Sportsnet has to pay bills and try to recoup the money they pay for Flames rights, but the network needs to show better judgment on telecasts. After a first-period whistle, Flames captain Jarome Iginla obviously had a bee in his bonnet and was making a long skate to get at a Minnesota player. Before we could find out what would happen, there was a cutaway to a supermarket promo. When we returned to the action, the broadcast crew commented on Iginla’s orneriness but could not explain it and had no replay to tell the story we had missed . . . Minnesota’s Guillaume Latendresse says escaping the scrutiny and pressure of Montreal has allowed him to finally live up to his abilities. Something to remember some spring (not this one) if you’re thinking about taking Latendresse in your playoff pool.

Flames lines


Defence pairings


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Three Stars

  1. Chuck Kobasew
  2. Mikko Koivu
  3. Matt Stajan

Fight Card

Nothing doing in this category.

The Big Save

With the Wild frantically crashing the net during a first-period scramble, the puck leaked through Vesa Toskala and was heading for daylight. But like a cow shooing away a fly with its tail, the Flames netminder flicked his leg behind him and knocked the disk out of harm’s way.

The Big Hit

Guillaume Latendresse hammered Jamal Mayers into the boards early in the third period and knocked the Calgary forward right off his feet. Mayers managed to shake off the jolt but the force of the collision necessitated repairs to a section of glass in front of the penalty box/timekeeper’s area.

What It Means

Calgary fails in a bid to get back to the two points the eighth-place Red Wings earned with last split-second goals in Edmonton on Friday and in Vancouver on Saturday. According to Sportsclubstats.com, the Flames’ playoff chances are down to 17 per cent.

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What’s Next

Curtis McElhinney and the Anaheim Ducks are at the Saddledome on Tuesday.