Wings too hot for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

DETROIT -- The elements for a wing ding were there.

- Great start including the game's first goal. Check.

- The moribund powerplay connecting. Check.

- A physical, in-your-face performance. Check.

- More than two goals. Check.

Yet, it still wasn't enough for the Calgary Flames to beat the Detroit Red Wings last night.

Instead of ending their road trip on a high, the Flames dropped a 5-3 clash at the Joe Louis Arena and are searching for answers that don't seem to be coming.

"Right now we're close but it's not good enough. We have to find more," said captain Jarome Iginla, who assisted all three Calgary goals.

"We're close, starting to skate, being physical -- it was probably one of our better games against Detroit lately.

"It's a critical time right now, we know that, and we're close, but we need a little bit more. A little bit more to get it done."

The Red Wings (16-6-2) are atop of the Western Conference standings, but they were a team ripe for the pickings.

Calgary appeared ready to end its losing ways at the Joe Louis Arena with a solid start, holding the edge in play and got rewarded when Robyn Regehr opened the scoring with a long wrister that beat Chris Osgood.

However, the Wings -- especially offensive wizard Pavel Datsyuk -- can't be given a sniff or they'll do exactly what they did to a Calgary team that's become their personal whipping boys before the crowd of 17,108.

Before the period was over, Datsyuk sparked his team with a highlight-reel goal, beating Cory Sarich on a one-on-one, before roofing a shot past Miikka Kiprusoff.

Then, 23 seconds later and while the Flames were reeling from seeing a strong beginning go for naught, Kris Draper put the hosts ahead for good.

"We had a real strong start and the team seemed to lose its confidence when we had the goals scored against us and didn't really recover from it," said Calgary head coach Mike Keenan.

"It's too good a team to give them that kind of momentum."

Yet, the Flames kept making a game of it, even after Tomas Holmstrom made it a 3-1 count early in the second period with a five-on-three powerplay goal that spelled the end of the night for Kiprusoff, who'd seconds before taken a hard shot off the mask.

Dion Phaneuf made it a one-goal deficit for the visitors before the period was out, only to see Datsyuk score another stunning goal 37 seconds into third period for the game winner.

This time he fought off three players to gain the zone and somehow found the loose puck in the low slot before lifting a top-shelf backhander.

Alex Tanguay again made it a one-goal game but Valtteri Filppula finished it off.

"It's a fine line winning, and it feels like right now we're in the games and are right on that edge," Iginla said.

"We need to find a way to push that over and get some momentum."

Eliminating mistakes would help, too.

Although Kiprusoff surrendered three goals on 15 shots and McElhinney allowed two on 20, their teammates were guilty of making gaffes.

Not as many as the Wings are capable of forcing teams to make, but just enough.

There were too many penalties, too many missed scoring opportunities and a couple too many chances allowed to the ever-dangerous Datsyuk.

"In those instances, on a one-on-one, he's a very dangerous player. He demonstrated that on two occasions," Keenan said.

"You'd think our team would learn from the first one, at least, and not give him that opportunity to do it again.

"He certainly has a high skill level and we saw it tonight."

So, instead of winning two of three on their road swing, the Flames (10-12-3) have to return home for a four-game homestand with only a moral victory.

"I don't think those count," said defenceman Adrian Aucoin.

"It's one thing to at least know you worked hard, but a loss is still a loss."

And the losses seem to be coming more often than not.


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