It may have been a one goal game, but the score probably flattered the Calgary Flames in the end, as the team lost their third straight game by a 4-3 score at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. Far too many defensive breakdowns would cost the Flames in the end, and a late push wasn’t going to be enough against a fairly defensively sound Coyotes team, who won their fourth game this season against Calgary, sweeping the season series.
The first period wasn’t a strong one for the Flames, as they’d lose the scoring chance count 7-2, and they’d find themselves down 1-0 at 8:25. Taylor Pyatt would win a puck battle with Jay Bouwmeester in the left corner, and eventually feed a pass to Vernon Fiddler; Lee Stempniak would take Fiddler’s pass in the slot and wire it through for a 1-0 lead. However, as has been the case over the last while, the puck bounced Calgary’s way late in the period. After a huge Miikka Kiprusoff stop at one end, Rene Bourque would race down the right wing and fire a shot on Ilya Bryzgalov; the rebound would come to Olli Jokinen on the opposite side, and he’d be good for his 15th of the season at 18:02. A late goal gave Calgary the opportunity to turn the tide in the second on even footing.
It was a good start to the middle frame for the home side, as they did a nice job tilting things and keeping the play in the Phoenix end. But a defensive breakdown allowed Lauri Korpikoski to chip a Shane Doan pass to Eric Belanger; on a breakaway, Belanger would go roof on the backhand to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead at 6:11. The Flames would get some decent zone time down the stretch in the second, but were unable to get much to the scoring areas, and Phoenix was able to carry a one goal lead into the third.
The final frame saw a nightmare start for the Flames, as they would fall down by two just 1:53 in, with Keith Yandle getting his 11th followed 19 seconds later by Michal Roszival’s fifth on the year. Two quick strike goals all but put this game away, but it did cue a spirited Calgary comeback. The Flames would get a powerplay shortly after Roszival’s marker at score just five second into it, with Mikael Backlund tallying his ninth at 3:09, and all of a sudden the offensive onslaught was on. A chasing Calgary team continued to press, and on a fast break, Alex Tanguay would emerge from his cloak of invisibility to fire his 19th past Bryzgalov at 9:28, and all of a sudden we had a hockey game. And then the Coyotes went into shutdown mode, and didn’t allow much from there…in fact, getting more quality chances than the Flames in the latter stages of the period. Calgary wasn’t able to do much with the goalie pulled late, and Phoenix was able to right the ship and hold on for a 4-3 win.
One Good Reason…
…why the Flames lost? In this one, they took far too long to start playing any hockey of note. Quite seriously, Calgary was ineffective, listless, lethargic and lazy for 35 to 40 minutes of this game, or longer. A late third period push isn’t going to be enough most nights in this league, regardless of the resolve it shows from the team. Against another playoff team, efforts like this aren’t acceptable, and Head Coach Brent Sutter said exactly the same thing in his postgame address. The message was clear: you can’t play poor hockey at this time of year, and you certainly can’t string losses like this together.
On a night where no one was overly impressive, I’ll go back to the ace in the hole…Tim Jackman. He was around the puck, had some push, wasn’t underwater in the chance count, and very physical. That’s what Jackman does ever night out, so when there’s a rather unimpressive game, you can always go back to him.
Sum It Up
No one single loss is going to be of the crippling nature at this point, but stringing this many losses together (even though it’s just three) is going to make the climb a whole lot steeper. They’ve got ten games to go this season. They’ve got four must, must, must wins (two vs. Edmonton, two vs. Colorado). They’ve got one must, must win (St. Louis). And then they’ve got five against much tougher opposition. Take care of business against the junk and try your luck against the teams of note, and we’ll see where they end up.