McElhinney's play downplayed

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

DETROIT -- First he was thrown to the wolves, then Curtis McElhinney was thrown under the bus.

Facing the Detroit Red Wings in his third NHL start -- and only second of the season -- odds were against the Calgary Flames goaltender.

But the 25-year-old backup was impressive making 35 saves, a good half-dozen of them of remarkable, to help his Flames earn a point with a 4-3 overtime loss in an arena that has yielded just two points for them in their last 10 attempts.

Head coach Mike Keenan wasn't as impressed as some of his players.

"I thought he played well in the first two periods and then, to me, he looked like he was nervous," said Keenan.

"That's the next challenge for him, to be able to close a game off. It wasn't like we had a barrage of pucks coming at us. That'll be his next challenge as a goaltender, to be able to close the door and come away with the win."

The shot count didn't quite reach 40, but the final 10 minutes of regulation and the extra 3:50 of overtime saw the Red Wings take over.

Although McElhinney would love to have Henrik Zetterberg's goal back, the lost rebound that cut the Flames lead to 3-2 a minute after David Moss restored a two-goal lead, he made up for it with repeated denials on Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler and many other of the Red Wings determined to complete the comeback.

"It's tough because Mac played such a great game. We wanted to get him a win tonight at Joe Louis," Jarome Iginla said of his goaltender.

"He was on fire. They got some great (chances) and he stood on his head. We would have loved to get him the win."

Giving starter Miikka Kiprusoff the night off for just the second time this season was bound to happen sooner or later.

Doing it against the defending Stanley Cup champions is a move that some would say is akin to throwing up the white flag.

Others would say it was a move to motivate a tired team playing its third game in four nights, and fourth in six, all on the road.

McElhinney didn't care what the reason, and he wasn't worried his last start came Nov. 8 against the Columbus Blue Jackets -- not exactly the same quality of opponent he faced in the Wings.

"In all honesty, I was pretty relaxed," said McElhinney.

"I was expecting a lot of shots and a lot of traffic, being the fourth game of our road trip. We saw that."

Even more relaxed after a save on Hossa on the opening shift, McElhinney was thrilled, not petrified, to be tossed into action against one of the league's elite.

"For sure. They're a fun team to play against. As a goalie, who wouldn't want to play against them?" he said.

"It's my dad's favourite team, so I would have loved to have been on the winning side tonight and rubbed it in his face a little bit. Unfortunately, it didn't happen."

It didn't happen because of a late push from the Red Wings the Flames were finally unable to match.

They did so earlier in the game, when the hosts showed signs of inching back.

But they backed up too deep in their own end as time ticked down.

Both Brian Rafalski's tying goal at 13:43 of the third and the winner from Nicklas Lidstrom 3:50 into overtime were lasers from well inside the blueline with loads of traffic in front.

"To blow those two-goal leads, that hurts. Especially to lose it in overtime, that was tough," said McElhinney, admitting he knew a big push was coming late.

"When those guys want to move the puck around, they do it and they do it very well. You can see why they're at the top of the standings, that's for sure."


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