CALGARY – Calgary Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr criticized some of his own teammates Wednesday in the wake of a demoralizing 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
The Flames had been five minutes away from taking a 3-1 lead in their quarter-final playoff series into Thursday’s Game 5 in San Jose. But the Sharks scored twice in the last five minutes, including the winner with 10 seconds left, to deadlock the series at two wins apiece in Tuesday’s Game 4.
There was tension in Calgary’s dressing room Wednesday before the Flames headed to the airport.
Shouting was heard from one of the rooms off the main dressing room and Regehr emerged shortly thereafter to say several teammates – he didn’t name names – weren’t doing enough.
“There’s a bunch of guys that aren’t being hard enough and not giving enough effort,” Regehr said. “That’s when things start breaking down and the puck ends up in the back of the net.
“Some guys have really battled and done a good job, but there’s others who I think there is a lot more there and they can really make the difference for us in a game or whether it’s in a shift or killing a penalty or blocking a shot.
“There’s always things that are done out there that end up winning a game. For some reason, we haven’t had guys out there doing those things on a consistent basis.”
There were a few candidates for the target of Regehr’s ire.
Winger Kristian Huselius has one assist in four playoff games and was on the ice for San Jose’s last two goals Tuesday.
Forward Alex Tanguay has two assists and he’s minus-one. Neither Tanguay or Huselius registered a shot on net in Game 4.
Winger Craig Conroy put up his own hand as one of the guilty. His hooking penalty in the second period allowed the Sharks to tie the game with a power-play goal. A tripping penalty in the third made it harder for the Flames to defend their meagre one-goal lead.
Conroy also shot way wide of San Jose’s net on a two-on-one in the first period.
“Those are unacceptable things,” Conroy said. “I’ve got to be a lot better.”
Even defenceman Dion Phaneuf and captain Jarome Iginla have had their lapses.
While Phaneuf leads the Flames in playoff scoring with three goals, he was on the ice for all six San Jose goals in Games 3 and 4.
Iginla scored on his one shot on net Tuesday for his second goal in as many games, but was also on the ice for the Sharks’ equalizer and winner.
And for the Flames to upset the Sharks, who finished No. 2 in the NHL this season, they’ll need more contributions from unlikely quarters, such as defensive forward Stephane Yelle’s two goals in Game 1.
You would have thought Calgary trailed San Jose by a game or two given the atmosphere Wednesday, but it was the way in which the Flames let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers that stung.
Even though the Flames mustered just 10 shots on net – a record low in a playoff game – they led 2-1 before Jonathan Cheechoo threaded a shot between Miikka Kiprusoff’s shoulder and the crossbar with less than five minutes to go.
With Calgary scrambling in its own end, Joe Thornton scored the winner with just 10 seconds remaining.
To have been up 3-1 on the Sharks heading into their rink Thursday would have created the makings of an upset. But it’s a three-game series now and the Sharks are favoured.
Thornton and Cheechoo scoring their first goals of the series may be a sign the sleeping giant has awakened.
Calgary’s late-game defensive breakdowns were costly enough, but 10 shots on Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov had the Flames nervously trying to defend one-goal leads, while Kiprusoff faced 32 shots.
Head coach Mike Keenan declared the Flames were careless and reckless with the puck and “to miss the net by two or three feet is a total lack of concentration.”
As for what sounded like a shouting match, Conroy said he didn’t witness it, but attributed it to blowing off frustration.
“You’d probably rather not have it, but it’s emotion and you want emotion,” he said. “Right now, there’s a lot of tension. Emotions are high.”