SUN Hockey Pool

Thrown under the 'Bus

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 9:50 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- It was the kind of play that could give a young goalie nightmares.

Calgary Flames goaltender Curtis McElhinney was dreaming of much better in his first start of the season, but when Jason Chimera took advantage of a gift of a giveaway on his doorstep to put the Columbus Blue Jackets ahead four minutes into the game, it was a sign of things to come in the Flames' 3-1 loss at Nationwide Arena last night.

If McElhinney was haunted by Chimera's perfect shot, imagine how bad teammate Rene Bourque felt after his ill-advised pass was picked off cleanly for the game's first goal.

"Just a bad decision -- I didn't see him there," said Bourque, who knew the question would be coming after he sent a pass from the boards right in front of his own net.

"It wasn't hard enough, and it was kind of a dangerous play, but I looked and didn't see him there, and it was one of those passes that didn't work out."

When the backup goalie starts, you expect perfection from the rest of the team. Or at least some support.

"Yeah, it's the worst thing you want to happen to your goalie, especially his first start of the season," said Bourque, with emotion creeping into his voice.

"The guy works so hard every day in practice and doesn't get to play too often. To let him down like that, it's tough."

But Bourque wasn't alone. The Flames had plenty of time to make amends. They never found a rhythm. They didn't test rookie goaltender Steve Mason often enough.

When they did, the 20-year-old was usually up to the challenge as he earned his third straight win in his first three NHL starts.

Jarome Iginla did even things up on the powerplay early in the second period -- zipping a shot from the high slot past Mason -- only to watch another mistake by the Flames turn into another deficit.

Jumping on a long dump pass down from Mike Commodore, speedy Blue Jackets freshman Derick Brassard sliced between defenceman Jim Vandermeer and a backchecking Daymond Langkow before snapping his shot past McElhinney's blocker for the 2-1 lead.

Manny Malhotra put the finishing touch on the victory with a great individual effort in the third period. He blocked a shot then raced down the left side. Faking a slapshot, he got McElhinney moving a little and got a little help from Cory Sarich, as the Flames defender knocked his stick during the shot to push the puck into the far corner of the net.

"It kind of just caught the outside of my arm," McElhinney said. "I look at all three goals, and I think, 'Hey, you know what? I need to make one of those saves to give us an opportunity to stay in the game. Unfortunately, it didn't happen tonight."

McElhinney even took some of the blame for the first goal, saying he needed to be ready for the shot, even though the turnover took place so quickly and unexpectedly.

Vandermeer says his netminder didn't deserve any blame.

"I think he played great," Vandermeer said. "We gave them a breakaway from the hash marks in. A tough shot that goes off the D upstairs. He played fine. It wasn't anything he did."

Head coach Mike Keenan agrees.

"Curtis had a good game considering the fact he hadn't played for quite some time," Keenan said. "He had a good, solid handle on his game. We just didn't produce much for him."


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