City slackers

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

NEW YORK -- The stage was set to drop the guillotine.

Already up by a pair of goals, the Calgary Flames had the golden chance to stick a fork in the Rangers and leave Madison Square Garden with the two points.

Instead, the Flames gassed another lead and lost 4-2 last night. Calgary's last four losses have all been the result of blowing two-goal advantages.

"When you get a two-goal lead, the next one is so important," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

"They picked it up while we didn't. They out competed us all the way around.

"Even going into the third period 2-2, that's the game and they were better."

The last four Flames losses, including Saturday night's overtime defeat in Vancouver, have come despite having two-goal leads.

Which begs the question, is it a lack of defensive effort or lack of a killer instinct among the Flames?

General manager/head coach Darryl Sutter thinks it's the latter of those two ideas, especially among his upper-tier skaters.

"In the first period, we had our chances and those who had them didn't finish," said Sutter. "In the end, it wasn't a reflection on our team, it's a reflection on those players."

Which, in this case, begins with Iginla.

Thanks to goals 38 seconds apart by Dion Phaneuf and Rhett Warrener late in the opening frame, the 18,200 that filled MSG were already in full boo-bird mode.

And early in the second period when Iginla was sent in alone on a breakaway caused by Tony Amonte stripping the puck from Jaromir Jagr, the opportunity to finish the job couldn't be bigger.

Instead, Iginla was denied by Henrik Lundqvist -- perhaps the rookie Ranger netminder's biggest save -- and the hosts were granted new life.

Seconds later, the Rangers were on the board and couldn't be stopped.

Iginla concurred that ability to twist the knife like a Mafia hitman is lacking.

"We need to be better at it," he said. "The best teams don't play the scoreboard, you hear that all the time, they go out and do it. We need to improve in that area.

"For whatever reason, it looks like it comes off the throttle a bit and that's our fault as players. You look at this game -- they picked up their game and we didn't match it."

The loss drops Calgary, still atop the Northwest Division, to 25-13-5.

To give credit where it's due, the Rangers received solid netminding from Lundqvist and didn't pack it in like recent seasons.

A game that started similar in 2003-04 ended up 5-0 for Calgary.

This time, the hosts fought back, which head coach Tom Renney said has been the key message to be instilled in this turnaround season.

"We talked about the history of this organization and the relative futility it's had and that we want to gain respect in our own city and in our league by the nature of this group here," said Renney, whose team now sports a 24-12-7 mark.

"It's all hands on deck and, for the most part, it's happened most nights."

Martin Straka and newly acquired Petr Sykora drew New York even by the end of the middle period and then Jason Ward -- on a play set up by former Flame Ville Nieminen -- potted the winner early in the final frame.

Dominic Moore iced it with an empty netter.

Sykora, traded to the Rangers from Anaheim, had a terrific debut with a goal and an assist and said the night confirmed his belief this is a new Rangers team.

"It doesn't often happen in this league, 2-0 you come back, but it shows how strong this hockey club is," said Sykora, who spent seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils before heading west.

"If you really want it, you stick to your system and this team has a system I didn't see all the times before I played against these guys.

"I can feel the energy and the winning attitude in this dressing room.

"To win in New York City, I don't think you can beat it."

Calgary concludes its tour of New York tomorrow with a game against the slumping Islanders.


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