Curtis Blue over first start

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- It's not Curtis McElhinney's fault his Calgary Flames teammates didn't score a single goal.

Yet, there was the rookie goalie willingly taking the heat for his club's 3-0 loss in his first NHL start.

"It was an opportunity I was looking forward to and a chance for us to get on a roll and start building some consistency, if anything," McElhinney said. "We couldn't seem to find a goal, and I gave up a goal in the first minute.

"It happened pretty fast, and those things came back to haunt us."

The milestone moment finally came for the Calgary product, getting the start between the pipes in favour of ironman Miikka Kiprusoff, who started the first 23 contests of the season.

But only 27 seconds into the clash before a crowd of 15,138 at the Scottrade Center, the host Blues were on the board thanks to Jamal Mayers, who took advantage of a poor defensive play at the blueline and a pair of rebounds.

McElhinney stopped Lee Stempniak's long offering only to see the puck go right back to the Blues winger. Stempniak's second chance rang off the post, but Mayers -- unchecked in the slot -- made no mistake with the open net.

"It's just one of those things that happens," McElhinney said. "Unfortunately, that's a puck I would have like to have held in, but he hit me with a pretty hard shot off the shoulder. It was just a bad break. Unfortunately, we got an unlucky bounce at the blueline, and it gave him a good shot."

Not the way McElhinney imagined his start would go, but head coach Mike Keenan quickly steered any and all blame elsewhere.

"Really, it wasn't a tough start. Our forward missed his assignment," Keenan said emphatically. "They had two or three chances to score before they scored, so it had nothing to do with Curtis. The people out in front of him didn't do their work.

"He played all right. He wasn't spectacular -- we lost the game, and they only had 17 shots on (him), but he was all right."

The other goal surrendered by McElhinney was off an odd-man rush, caused by a foolish neutral-zone turnover in the final minute of the second period and finished off by Brad Boyes.

Mayers iced it with a shorthanded empty netter.

Otherwise, the Flames (10-11-3) played a solid road game that could have been worth a victory.

They held the edge in play by a wide margin -- especially over the final 40 minutes -- but couldn't put one of the 24 shots past Blues goalie Manny Legace.

"We're not scoring many goals," Keenan said. "We're scoring two goals a game for the last dozen games, on average. We had a powerplay chance to tie the game, and we didn't get anything done, and then they get one powerplay chance on what I thought was a marginal too-many-men-on-the-ice call -- we only had four guys on the ice when the whistle was blown -- but they scored a goal, and that made a difference."

Still, the Flames weren't at their best playing on the second half of back-to-back nights. Their best scoring chances didn't come until the third period, including one where Jarome Iginla nearly shoved a wrapround into the net, but the review didn't prove Legace's outstretched leg was far enough in the goal for the puck to have crossed the line.

"It was very close. If it wasn't a goal, it was by a millimetre," Iginla said.


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