Roadblock at home

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

You could call it a road trip hangover.

Maybe even a letdown.

Or a product of the season.

Either way, it came back to bite the Calgary Flames.

Coming off their NHL record-tying six-win road trip, the Flames lost some of the momentum in their first game back at the Saddledome by dropping a 3-2 overtime game to the Dallas Stars last night.

"It was obvious we had a proverbial slow start," said head coach Mike Keenan. "We have to reload. Certainly it was a topic of discussion, we had an excellent road trip, but how do you overcome the letdown? It's that problem around this time of year -- the family obligations, the personal obligations all of us have to participate in ... all the things they should be doing with their families. At the same time it's a distraction and something we didn't have on the road.

"We got emotionally ready for the game after the first period, and maybe that's too late."

Of course, it begs the question, what can you do to prevent a sluggish performance after a long road swing?

"If I had that answer, I'd have 150 more wins," Keenan said with a wry grin. "There's no coach in the league that's ever been able to figure that one out."

Certainly not this time.

Yet, the Flames were so close to bucking that historical trend before the sellout crowd of 19,289.

Despite an imperfect first period in which they managed only three shots on goal, the Flames managed to pull ahead of the Pacific Division-leading Stars with second period goals by Alex Tanguay and Matthew Lombardi.

However, Niklas Hagman forced overtime and then Mike Ribeiro netted his second goal of the game 57 seconds into the extra session for the winner.

"We definitely could have won that game. Just not happy," said a disappointed Flames defenceman Cory Sarich.

It wasn't due to a lack of chances.

The stats sheet showed Dallas back-up goalie Mike Smith needed only 22 saves to come up with the win, but most of them had to be of the 'high-quality' variety.

He was especially strong in the third period, kicking out 11 pucks -- including a couple during a late-period powerplay -- as the hosts buzzed around in the quest for a game winner.

"I felt like I had 45 shots tonight," said Smith, the rookie caddy for all-star Marty Turco. "They're a relentless team, a good team down low, and fortunately we got one more than they did."

For that, Smith deserves a ton of credit. Or, depending on how you look at it, the Calgary's shooters need to convert their steady stream of chances.

"A couple more goals in the third period," lamented Tanguay. "When you don't score, that's what happens. It comes back to haunt you."

As Ribeiro proved in the overtime.

The forward who's having a career season, played the hero by first winning the faceoff deep in Calgary territory and then displaying fantastic hands with a neat deflection of Sergei Zubov's point shot, redirecting it past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff for his 18th goal of the season.

"It was a lost faceoff and a deflected puck, that's as simple as it gets, by a pretty crafty player in front of the net," Keenan said. "If you don't lose the faceoff or have a draw, he doesn't get the chance."

Calgary falls to 17-13-6, but remains unbeaten in regulation this month (7-0-3).


Videos

Photos