SUN Hockey Pool

Flames backup faces flurry

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

DENVER -- Curtis McElhinney almost withstood the barrage.

Despite a horrible Calgary Flames team in front of him and a flurry of rubber coming his way through the opening period, the rookie netminder made save after save.

In the end -- again -- he just couldn't do it long enough to earn his first NHL win.

Despite all kinds of big stops, McElhinney unfairly took a beating in his team's 6-2 loss last night to the Colorado Avalanche but wasn't taken any solace in keeping his team within striking distance most of the way through a one-sided debacle.

"There were some good saves at the start -- they allowed me to get into the game -- but it's such a frustrating way to end it," McElhinney said. "Two goals a period and end up losing.

"You want to go out and get everybody two points, and unfortunately, it didn't go my way."

The Flames (27-14-4) have lost consecutive games in regulation for the first time in more than two months by dropping a Saturday night clash at home to the Phoenix Coyotes and then this one to the Avs less than 24 hours later.

Despite a terrible first period by the team in front of him, McElhinney stopped the first 18 shots fired his way, and gave the Flames a chance to win it.

Then came the slap of reality.

With the Avs up 2-1 and the Flames on the powerplay, Ryan Smyth scored the game-winner -- the 300th goal of his career -- while shorthanded.

The milestone goal for the former Oiler was a major source of disappointment for McElhinney.

"We're trying to get back into the game, he comes down two-on-one, and he makes a shot that sneaks under my arm. That's a save I need to make at this level," McElhinney said. "It takes the wind out of our sails. It can't happen."

Not that his teammates could even imagine pointing fingers.

Marek Svatos and Chris Stewart's late first-period goals put an exclamation point on a dreadful opening period before the Pepsi Center crowd of 16,113.

McElhinney even held strong through an early second-period five-on-three before Michael Cammalleri put the Flames on the board.

Smyth and Milan Hejduk both scored their 300th career goals before the second intermission to help the Avalanche (23-22-1) snap a three-game losing skid.

McElhinney, who started for only the third time his season and for the first time since the Dec. 10 overtime loss in Detroit, is still staring at a goose-egg in his personal win column, and the rest of the Flames are well aware of it.

"It's disappointing to lose two in a row, and it's a disappointing game for different reasons, but I would say that's one of the biggest disappointments," said Cammalleri of the netminder's so-far unsuccessful quest for his first victory.

"Curtis has a lot of respect in this room from the guys. We all think he's very capable, and we weren't good enough."

"He's had some pretty tough games," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "He played well but had some pretty tough games to win. I thought he played great in Detroit, and (last night), you look at the clock and shots are 20-8.

"He gave us a chance to get our legs under us -- an opportunity -- and as players, we feel bad for not getting the win and not being as good as we should have been for him."

Rene Bourque provided a glimmer of hope for the Flames when he scored to make it just a two-goal bulge, but Ruslan Salei and Cody McLeod rounded out the scoring to give the Avs their first victory over the Flames this season in the fifth meeting.

The Calgary club was playing on consecutive nights -- normally a tough task -- but made even harder by a late start at home (8 p.m.) followed by a trip that brought them to the hotel in Denver at 3 a.m. and then a 6 p.m. puck drop against the Avalanche.

"It's a different schedule, but I imagine other teams have to go through it," Iginla said.

"I imagine Colorado has a wacky schedule at certain times. After getting the first one against San Jose (on Thursday in the stretch of three games in four nights), we should be getting points out of the two games we had the chance to get points with games in hand."

The Flames return home to face the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday night.


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