SUN Hockey Pool

A no-show in Ohio

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- Star for star, the Calgary Flames were eclipsed.

Rick Nash, David Vyborny, Sergei Fedorov, Fred Modin, Nikolai Zherdev all played key roles for the Columbus Blue Jackets. For the Flames, the play of goalie Jamie McLennan was the lone bright spot.

But McLennan's 29 saves weren't enough as the Flames dropped a 2-1 decision to the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena last night, failing to pick up points for the first time in nine games.

"I thought our goaltender played really well and our top players didn't play well at all," said Flames head coach Jim Playfair.

Despite the virtual invisibility of the Flames' top six forwards, they held a 1-0 lead on a Matthew Lombardi tally heading into the third period.

But a 47-second lapse midway through the third led to the second blown lead in as many games for the Flames, who surrendered a late two-goal advantage in a shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday.

First, Vyborny gathered a loose puck behind the net and bounced it in off McLennan's shoulder to tie the game.

The house announcer hadn't even begun to broadcast the goal before they struck again after the Flames failed to clear the zone while under pressure.

This time, Fred Modin managed to knock the puck past McLennan.

The Flames roster is stocked with more skill than it has had in a decade but success still requires hard work and the willingness to win close games.

Those qualities were conspicuously absent last night.

"We're up by a goal on the road, we've got to close that out," said captain Jarome Iginla. "Those tight ones, those are our games. We like the tight games. Unfortunately, the last couple, we let it slip a little bit."

Although tight defensive play by the Jackets held the Flames in check throughout the first 40 minutes, a big hit by Dion Phaneuf on Nash seemed to sway momentum in the visitors' favour.

The rearguard slammed Nash into the boards with a shoulder-to-shoulder impact from the winger's blind side late in the second period and the home side started to unravel.

After every Blue Jacket on the ice tried to take a poke at Phaneuf, Adam Foote took it a step further. As the Flames defenceman was leaving the ice, Foote earned an unsportsmanlike penalty that resulted in Lombardi's powerplay goal with 22 seconds left in the second period.

The hit and ensuing goal would have been enough to boost the Flames on most nights but the Blue Jackets were better in the third.

"That's the way it goes sometimes. Maybe we didn't learn from the last game when we were up 2-0," said centre Craig Conroy. "We can't afford to keep doing it.

"We were getting the momentum going into the third and we felt good. It happens ... but when it's this tight a race, you can't afford to give away any points."

Nash wasn't sure what to think of Phaneuf's hit but was happy his team's temporary state of frustration didn't take them off their game.

"We took a penalty off it and they scored a goal but it was big for Footer (Adam Foote) to step up like that," said Nash.

"I couldn't see (Phaneuf). I turned and looked. I don't know if it was dirty or clean, I didn't see the replay.

"But he ended up being on (the ice) for the last goal, so we'll take the two points."


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