Conroy burned for winner

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Craig Conroy has three daughters to happily play Santa for tomorrow.

The Calgary Flames centre got a head start on the gift giving with his costly overtime mistake in last night's 1-0 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils.

With the puck in offensive territory, Conroy had the opportunity to shoot but tried to make one more move to get a better angle in the high slot. Instead, he bobbled the puck and lost possession, which sent away a pair of Devils on a two-on-one perfectly finished by Patrik Elias to the chagrin of the Saddledome sellout crowd of 19,289.

"My fault," Conroy said.

"I should have shot it quick. I tried to pull it, it bounced over my stick and away it went. I've got to be smarter than that. I was the defenceman back there.

"If I would have shot it, everything would have been fine.

"I know the ice was bad. It's a stupid play by me, and it ended up costing us. Totally my fault."

A Christmas ruined? No way.

A restless night? You bet.

"I've probably had a million of those, where I make a mistake that's in the back of your net. It's gonna bother me tonight, but I'll spend some time with my family, regroup and make the difference next game," Conroy vowed.

For what it's worth, head coach Mike Keenan kept his critique of the play in check, well aware Conroy was already beating himself up mercilessly, but did point out the simple play is the best idea at that time.

"I think any time you have an opportunity to shoot the puck at the net, it's never a bad play. That's what we encourage our players to do," Keenan said. "We've asked our players to do that more often than not. If you don't have a play and you think the only possibility that exists for you at that time is to shoot the puck, then that's not a bad play to shoot the puck, particularly in that instance where Alex (Tanguay) was standing in front of the goaltender."

For those looking at the glass being half full, the Flames netted yet another point in the standings and haven't lost in regulation this month -- going 7-0-4 since the calendar flipped to December.

For those who see it as half-empty, it's the continuation of some alarming trends. It's the second straight loss at home in overtime -- both in the first minute of the extra period, while the team has only seven wins in 20 home dates (7-7-6), and only one in the last seven at the 'Dome.

Sure, they've come up against some hot goaltenders at home this season -- at least last night's hero was renowned star Martin Brodeur -- but that home futility is cause for concern.

"We have to play better," succinctly stated defenceman Robyn Regehr.

"If you look at the games, there's been certain games where maybe we deserved to win -- you run up against a hot goaltender or something -- but I think there's more in this dressing room."

Brodeur of the Atlantic Division leading Devils (20-13-3) made 30 saves to collect the shutout. But the Flames frittered away a half-dozen powerplay chances against a team that doesn't take many penalties or surrender many shots.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 21 shots for Calgary.

The Flames return to action Dec. 27 in Vancouver to face the Canucks.


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