SUN Hockey Pool

Good effort not enough

STEVE MACFARLANE

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

If last night's game was a measuring stick, the Calgary Flames proved they could hang with the big boys.

Although an early goal by the Detroit Red Wings had many Flames fans groaning in anticipation of another blowout like the one they suffered at the hands of the San Jose Sharks last week, they had to be excited by the way the home side responded.

It ended in disappointment with the Red Wings grinding out a 5-2 decision, but the outcome hung in the balance until Pavel Datsyuk's individual effort provided the insurance goal in the final couple of minutes.

Marian Hossa tucked in an empty netter in the dying seconds to skew the score even further.

That was progress.

Wasn't it?

"It depends what you want to do, how you want to look at the game," said alternate captain Robyn Regehr.

"No matter what game, you can always find positives. For us, I think you have to look at the whole game and the result, because right now we're behind teams and you have to win in order to get back into it.

"I wouldn't be wearing the rose-coloured glasses too much here. We want to beat teams like Detroit and San Jose. We want to make sure we learn from these games.

"Yeah, you do some good things, but you have to do great things, and you have to do them over, and over, and over again -- just like they do."

They, being the Red Wings. And, yeah, they are pretty great.

They jumped to a 1-0 lead on Kirk Maltby's second goal of the season 4:26 into the game.

Set up by defenceman Andreas Lilja, who earned his fourth assist of the season for feeding Maltby from the wing after scooping up a loose puck in the neutral zone, Maltby directed the puck past the outstretched right pad of Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Flames pushed back, all smoke and no fire, until Brett Lebda made it 2-0 lead 11:46 into the second period.

Curtis Glencross scored 36 seconds later to cut the lead in half, and Mark Giordano potted his first of the year in the third period to knot things at 2-2 before the Wings pulled away.

Ultimately, one play sealed the Flames' fate.

A delayed penalty call on Daymond Langkow gave the Red Wings time to send out an extra man.

It was Jiri Hudler, who sped up the ice and got inside the Flames zone just in time to slap a bullet past Kiprusoff's glove and into the top shelf for the winning goal just past the midway mark of the third period.

Datsyuk and Hossa ended things a little earlier than the Flames had hoped, but it was nowhere near the disaster that took place a week and a half ago in San Jose.

"Well it wasn't a 5-2 game. I think it was a little tighter than that for sure," said head coach Mike Keenan.

"We made some progress in certain areas, but we certainly have some things to learn and continue to improve upon if we are going to have the expectation of improving our game well enough to beat a team that has only lost two or three games all season."


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