SUN Hockey Pool

Fight fails to add punch

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

Despite a handful of notable additions and a solid base of stars, the man who provided the most inspiration for the Flames last night was Eric Godard.

That's not to say the Flames threw together a completely lacklustre effort to open the season. After all, they did make a game of it late only to choke down a 3-2 loss in the final two minutes.

But for the fifth year in a row, they failed to ride the emotion that comes with opening in your own barn.

Welcomed with an impressive pre-game light and sound show that featured a salute to the province and minor hockey, the Flames then came out flat.

Allowing Daniel Briere to score on his second shift as a Flyer -- followed by a Mike Knuble one-timer -- the Flames did well to quiet a sold-out gathering eight minutes into the campaign.

It wasn't until Godard fished Jesse Boulerice out of the crowd late in the frame that fans had something tangible to cheer about.

Feeding the dangerous martial artist a steady feast of rights that eventually knocked the black belt to the ice, Godard's fight prompted an eruption from a crowd that had some members actually booing after the first frame.

However, despite Godard's rousing effort, the team took way too long to follow with anything remotely inspiring.

It wasn't until six minutes into the second when Daymond Langkow scored his first of two powerplay goals the Flames showed signs of life against the NHL's defending cellar-dwellers.

"(Godard's fight) definitely was a big turning point for us," said Daymond Langkow, who personally fed off the scrap and almost saved the evening. "We got energy from that, but it was kind of too late. By then, we were down 2-0 and any time you spot a team two goals its tough to come back. Our start cost us the game tonight. That's just not good enough."

Compounding the Flames' flat opening was a rash of penalties that had the hosts on their heels right up until Godard stood up to try stopping the bleeding, so to speak.

"I thought that was a huge boost for us emotionally because they were all over us, getting their power plays and scoring chances," said Jarome Iginla in a subdued dressing room.

"I thought from then on we started clawing our way back into it. We not only got back into it, but I thought we were taking it over. It's a tough one to lose because it was right there. We definitely let it slip away."

Langkow's apparent heroics included a game-tying powerplay marker late in the evening that came after he broke his stick, skated back to the bench for a new one mid-play, and finished a brilliant pass from Alex Tanguay.

However, the bad dump by Anders Eriksson followed by a bad bounce allowed Briere to make headlines with a stunning game-winner.

Sadly, if not for Godard's fight Iginla and others agreed it could have been three or four nothing long before that.

"I didn't like the way we started," said coach Mike Keenan of his team's effort.

"We could've established ourselves and our game quicker."

Maybe tomorrow night he should start Godard.


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