Blackhawks not down

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

The Calgary Flames didn’t enjoy the feeling of deja vu.

It was less than two weeks ago in Chicago they held a narrow lead over the Blackhawks only to have their hopes of a regulation victory dashed in the dying seconds en route to an upsetting overtime loss.

Last night at the Saddledome, a pair of powerplay goals by Martin Havlat in the final few minutes erased a 2-0 Flames lead after the home side appeared to have its 30th win of the season wrapped up on the same night the franchise retired former goaltender Mike Vernon’s

No. 30 to the rafters.

Unfortunately, No. 30 in the win column will have to wait.

The Flames fell 3-2 in the shootout on goals from Havlat and Jeff Hamilton.

Kristian Huselius and Alex Tanguay both failed to score on their attempts.

“It’s always disappointing to lose, especially when you’re up 2-0,” said Huselius. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish it off tonight.”

Defenceman Robyn Regehr was equally perplexed over the finish.

“To put ourself down 5-on-3 twice in the last three minutes, it’s just not smart hockey,” Regehr said.

The deflating defeat capped off an especially long night for all involved and fans had to be a little antsy after an extended stay in the seats courtesy of the lengthy ceremony honouring Vernon before the contest.

As justified as the Vernon jersey retirement was, the first period that followed should be entered as evidence against any future lengthy ceremonies.

There was little jump from either side as they went through the motions while racking up a whopping five shots between them in the first 20 minutes. The Blackhawks’ sole offering was a gift from the statistitions past the halfway point after Jeffrey Hamilton hit the side of the net.

Technically, the Flames should have earned the right to claim they’re the only team to blank the Blackhawks for a full period in Chicago’s franchise history but that’s grasping at straws for a positive spin on the opening 20 minutes.

“It was a sloppy game, not our best effort,” said Huselius, who didn’t want to use the delayed start as an excuse. “It’s the same for both teams. We talked about it, to try to stay focused. You sit out there for a long time.

“But you can’t complain because it’s a great honour to be out there to see his jersey going up there.”

One of Vernon’s former teammates eventually gave the Flames the edge on the scoreboard.

Jeff Friesen, who led the San Jose Sharks in scoring the year Vernon made his debut in teal, whipped in his second goal of the season late in the second period to give the Flames a 1-0 lead.

The speedy winger seems to have found his spot on the ice. Friesen’s laser over Nikolai Khabibulin’s shoulder was nearly identical to the one he launched past Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson a month ago.

Friesen was unchallenged while racing out from behind the goal-line and leaned into a wrister that blurred past Khabibulin and had the hard-luck vet grinning ear to ear.

Huselius padded the lead on the powerplay in the third period. The red-hot Swede’s 24th of the season set a new career high to go with his new benchmark in points. It also extended his streak to 13 games with at least a point — the longest current streak in the NHL and equal to Alex Ovechkin’s season high.

steve.macfarlane@calgarysun.com


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