SUN Hockey Pool

Loss Curtisy of miscues

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

People in town used to feel sorry for Curtis McElhinney because he'd never started a game on home ice.

Now they feel bad for the Calgary Flames backup goaltender because his team can't seem to offer him any support.

Making his first start at the Saddledome and looking for his first NHL victory, McElhinney was left hanging in more than one way as the Anaheim Ducks beat the Flames 2-1 yesterday afternoon.

He probably didn't even see the first puck that got past him with rookie blueliner Adam Pardy blocking his view, as Bobby Ryan zipped his 18th goal of the campaign into the net after a turnover by Dion Phaneuf.

Pardy practically giftwrapped the second goal in the dying seconds of the second period, coughing the puck up to spring sniper Corey Perry on a breakaway.

To his credit, Pardy stood up in the dressing room after the game and addressed the error that led to the game-winner.

"It's a play, a mistake that I can't make," said the 24-year-old. "You've got to keep pucks out of the middle. I made a key mistake, and we lost 2-1."

That probably didn't make his goaltender, who made 23 saves, feel much better.

"I wanted to come out and make sure that I kept it close and give them a legitimate opportunity to win the game," McElhinney said.

"I felt as though I did that. I made some saves."

"It would have been nice to make a breakaway save with 28 seconds left in the second. That's tough."

Finding out the night before he would be making his first start at home, McElhinney was told the change might do the team some good amid a three-game losing streak.

Glaring errors on both goals against were bad enough to cost them the game, but the Flames' inability to put the puck in the net in support of their backup backstop has been a year-long trend.

They've scored a total of seven goals in McElhinney's four starts this season and only showed up offensively yesterday for seven minutes of the third period.

Michael Cammalleri scored his 27th of the season on a rebound, as the Flames finally put some serious pressure on Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"It's a little bit frustrating," admitted McElhinney. "I think we could have gotten to the net a little bit more on Giguere. The rebounds are certainly there on him, but if you don't have your butt in his face, it's kind of an easy night for him.

"We put the push on but just a little too late, I guess."

McElhinney did his part.

Not many of his teammates can say the same.

"Mac played great and gave us a chance," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "It's tough. We feel for him. He's had some real tough starts this year as far as back-to-backs, and we haven't been as good as we should have been in front of him."

Defenceman Adrian Aucoin also offered his thoughts on the lack of support for McElhinney.

"It's brutal," Aucoin said, bluntly. "He's a really good goalie. I'm not a goalie expert, but he's a really good goalie. He gave us a chance to win, and we didn't."

At least Mike Keenan didn't use McElhinney as a scapegoat as he did in a 4-3 overtime loss in Detroit, after the Red Wings clawed back late in the game to force extra time.

"He gave us a really good, solid NHL game," Keenan said yesterday. "That's all you can expect."

If McElhinney can expect a little more support, his first NHL win might finally come.


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