SUN Hockey Pool

Flames fall prey in OT

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Weak starts and a lack of finish are plaguing the Calgary Flames.

It's weighing heavily on the players, and is even more puzzling to head coach Mike Keenan, who's been preaching the value of early energy all season to no avail.

Again last night it was their undoing at home against a desperate Nashville Predators team fighting for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Flames earned an important point of their own to stick as the third seed for at least another night, but fell 2-1 in overtime after giving up a fragile 1-0 lead in the third period.

With even a hint of desperation in the first half of the game, just one more goal, they wouldn't have had to worry about trying to make Craig Conroy's tally stand for a second straight game.

Nothing Keenan has done to reinforce the message has worked, and he's getting more perplexed by the day.

"We didn't deserve to win," said a downcast Keenan. "Interesting group. It's hard to find an explanation why there's no sense of urgency in our game at home, as opposed to the way we play on the road.

"If I could put my finger on it, I'd explain it to you. I tried to get their attention (Thursday) by shortening the practice, talking to them about it, and they just can't get themselves ready in this building.

"It's the (ninth) time we've lost points in this building, so that's a little bit perplexing about this group."

Conroy broke a scoreless tie 11:38 into the second period and woke his side up. Only Miikka Kiprusoff had played up to par at that point, and they knew what was on the line with a chance to take the outright lead over the Minnesota Wild for top spot in the Northwest Division.

"We had an opportunity that got away," said Conroy, who got a gift of a turnover in the slot and roofed a shot past Dan Ellis. "We've got to start scoring some goals."

Scott Nichol tied the game 8:58 into the third, and J.P. Dumont got the winner in overtime after Flames defenceman Adrian Aucoin coughed up the puck in his own end.

"You just try to create offence. I knew they had two guys -- one guy behind me and one guy coming right at me -- so if I beat him, I thought we'd have a three-on-two," said Aucoin of the error.

"Sometimes the simplest play should be done. I didn't make it."

But more confusing was the issue of coming out with enthusiasm at the Saddledome. Both the powerplay and starts are sorely lacking at home this season.

"We had a powerplay meeting, we had a meeting about starts, a discussion with them (Thursday)," said Keenan, searching for answers. "You're gonna have to ask them because I can't explain it."

Those answers aren't forthcoming from the players, either. Aucoin was at a loss to explain things.

"It's a little frustrating because we talk about it, and I know guys are trying to work hard and do the smart things in the first period, but we're just not executing the way we should be," he said, pointing to a 3-1 win over the Coyotes in Phoenix last weekend as an example of what they are capable of off the hop.

"We came out like banshees and they had no chance of beating us. We know we should play that way. We know we can play that way. We know when we play that way we're going to win.


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