CALGARY – On paper, four out of six points and no regulation losses in their first three games sounds like a pretty good start for the Calgary Flames, who were picked by many to finish last in the Western Conference this season.
However, knowing that if they could have held on to multiple-goal leads in the two losses, they would have taken six out of six points. There was very little satisfaction in the Flames dressing room after Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
“We took four out of six points which is a positive but we’re not happy with losing that game,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “A 3-1 lead in the third. It’s up to us to know when to make plays and when to make the safe play and we didn’t do a good enough job.”
Vancouver made it 3-2 at 5:01, capitalizing on a turnover behind the net by Curtis Glencross. The tying goal came as a result of a giveaway along the sideboards in his own end by Brian McGrattan.
After mistakes by two of the team’s veterans, it was the youngest player on the team that took his share of the blame for the go-ahead goal.
Dale Weise slipped away from Sean Monahan along the side boards and darted for the net, promptly converting Brad Richardson’s centring pass for the go-ahead goal at 16:06.
“There’s probably a couple of plays that I’ll lose some sleep over tonight and I’m going to learn from that and be better these next couple days,” said Monahan, who was a game-low minus-3 on the night, despite picking up his second goal and third point.
Monahan, on the ice for the tying goal and overtime goal as well, alluded to the Weise goal, and admitted Weise rolled off him and got away from him. That, he says, is the one play in particular he’ll be thinking about.
Until that point, it was another fine night for Monahan. Six days shy of his 19th birthday and three games into his NHL career, he had five shots in playing 13:42, his biggest workload yet. In the Flames home opener, he had his parents John and Cathy and sister Jacqueline in the crowd watching.
The Flames may be one of the surprises in the first week of the season but they’re not happy about seeing two games slip through their grasp in a span of four days.
“When you had a two-goal lead, the minute you start saying we did okay here, we did okay there, that’s when you start to accept losing and we’re not going to do that,” said David Jones, who forced overtime with a goal with 19 seconds left. “Everybody’s frustrated but tomorrow’s a new day and we just have to do a better job in the third.”
Even in Calgary’s win against Columbus on Friday, they gave up a goal late in the third before hanging on for the 4-3 win.
“It’s a learning (process). You can’t sit back. It doesn’t matter what the score is,” said veteran Flames goalie Joey MacDonald, who made 23 saves. “We kind of sat back, we turned the puck over a couple times in the third period and with a team like that, they have a lot of talent.
“And the Sedins, that’s what they thrive on, they want to get these turnovers and they usually make you pay.”
Off until Wednesday when the Flames continue their three-game home stand against the Montreal Canadiens, the team can expect head coach Bob Hartley to touch on a few of their mistakes over the next few days at practice.
“We’ve got to play harder defensively and we’re going to work on that stuff tomorrow and we’re going to be better the next game,” Monahan said.
Jones says their mistakes are fixable.
“They’re a good team, they’re talented, so you have to give them a bit of credit but we have to do a better job of staying on the gas, staying on our toes, and playing our game instead of letting them dictate the play,” he said.