SUN Hockey Pool

Flames fumble away game

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

COLUMUBUS -- Sure, the Columbus Blue Jackets played the way they had to.

You can say they executed their game plan perfectly.

As for the Calgary Flames perspective of last night's 3-0 defeat, the picture was as dismal and dreary as the rain that pelted the Ohio capital all day.

"There's no excuse for it from our side," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "This is the time of year -- there was 10 games left -- and teams are raising (their play). We saw it on this road trip, even teams that are out, it's that last push to the end of the regular season.

"Teams are raising their game and their intensity and the physical play, and this road trip we didn't respond.

"We've got to get home, respond quickly and realize how big each game is."

Apparently the message hasn't gotten through, despite ample opportunity during what became pretty much a fruitless road trip against four teams headed to the golf courses when the NHL playoffs begin.

Instead of using their sojourn to pull away from the Northwest Division pack, the Flames stumbled, bumbled and fumbled away three of four games.

OK, maybe Washington will be in the post-season dance, but the Flames gassed a lead in that outing before doing the same -- a three-goal bulge -- in Atlanta.

As for last night's debacle before the gathering of 14,720 at Nationwide Arena, the Flames didn't even bother to build a lead to lose.

"You've got to win battles, you've got to win battles in the corner and they won almost every one tonight. They played harder than we did," said Iginla -- minus-3 on the night, just like linemate Daymond Langkow and defencemen Dion Phaneuf and Jim Vandermeer. "We didn't push back early.

"The whole road trip, we got pushed around more than we should be. You know what, we're a tough team and we can play aggressive, and this road trip we didn't bring either of those things enough."

Funny enough, the Blue Jackets let it be known they'd be out for revenge. They were still stinging from Calgary's 1-0 victory a couple of weeks ago.

They were talking about exacting a pound of flesh, apparently in retaliation for perceived liberties taken by the Flames. They let it be known all too obviously the game would get greasy.

Yet the Flames fell behind early on a Rick Nash goal -- only his third in 18 career games against Calgary -- and barely mustered any pressure the other way. It took 15 minutes for the Flames to register their second shot on goal, and managed only 18 pucks for Fredrik Norrena to stop.

"There really is no excuse," said centre Wayne Primeau. "There's 10 games left in the season and it's like playoffs. You have to have that mentality. Even if you're tired, shorten your shifts, play better defensively, do all those little things you have to do to help the team.

"We definitely weren't all on the same page and have to play better than that."

Manny Malhotra scored twice in the final frame for Columbus (33-29-11).

Calgary (37-26-10) returns home for tomorrow night's game against Colorado and in a three-way tie with the Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks for spots six through eight in the Western Conference -- two points back of the Minnesota Wild, who hold the Northwest Division lead.

All nine of the Flames remaining games are within the division.

Not exactly a good time to be sputtering.

"It wasn't a good road trip for us. It's a wake up call, a good wake-up call for us. We've got nine games left now," Iginla said. "To finish it off like this instead of thinking we were going home and playing pretty good. We've got to bring up our intensity.

"It gets tougher and these next nine games are going to be all about who wants them the most, winning second and third efforts and battles in the corners, everything everyone's got.

"It's a wake-up call for us and we've got to go home and find that in a hurry."


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