SUN Hockey Pool

Ugly loss in Atlanta

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

ATLANTA -- The Flames' lack of success in Atlanta has nothing to do with bad karma, bad luck or bad breaks.

Just bad performances.

The 5-2 defeat yesterday afternoon was another example of a Flames team not playing up to snuff and paying for it against a 29th-place Atlanta Thrashers squad happy to take advantage.

"We're in a position where other teams are going to be playing hard, trying to knock us off, and we weren't determined enough," said Calgary captain Jarome Iginla. "They got a couple of good bounces and we weren't resilient. We had a push in the beginning of the third (period), but -- starting with myself and Olli (Jokinen) and Cammy (Michael Cammalleri) -- we have to be like that off the start.

"That desperation and determination has to be from the start, and we didn't have that, unfortunately, again."

The suddenly struggling Flames (39-21-6) followed a clunker in Carolina with an atrocity in Atlanta.

Needing to regroup after being blitzed 6-1 by the Hurricanes and well aware of their winless history in Atlanta, the Flames provided another sub-par outing.

After opening their seven-game road swing with a pair of victories, the Flames suddenly find themselves on a road trip potentially careening out of control.

And they have only themselves to look at for reasons.

"What's defined us this year as a team is our competitiveness and our determination, and we didn't bring it again off the start like we should have," admitted Iginla, who scored his 30th goal of the season but was minus-2. "It wasn't necessarily like we got pushed around or anything like that -- last game, they out outplayed us physically -- but I don't think we were as determined and competitive enough to create enough chances and play in their zone.

"It's not just shots and stuff, but it's zone time. When we're going, we're hemming teams in, we're going down the walls, we're hitting them, causing chaos, and we haven't been able to do that the last couple of games."

The Flames, who called Atlanta home before moving north of the border in 1980, have five losses and one tie in their six trips back since the Thrashers joined the NHL. But all but one of those games is ancient history. The concern right now is how to regroup before facing the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night.

A starting point is the lack of intensity displayed the last two games.

Another would be the lack of smarts. Against a Thrashers team that will miss the playoffs, turnovers, poor positioning, weak goaltending and foolish penalties were all costly.

"We helped them out," said Calgary's other marksman, centre Craig Conroy. "They've got good players. I don't know how many penalties we took, seven or eight or nine, but it's too many. They made a good play and capitalized, and all those penalties take guys out of the game."

With six players already out of the lineup due to injuries, the Flames had to summon another skater from the minors because right winger David Moss missed the game due to a death in the family.

Could it be a case of all those subtractions adding up?

"I don't think it's an excuse for the way we're playing," Iginla said.

"We definitely have very important players out, but we've also shown that we can win games if we play a certain way."

Bryan Little scored twice for Atlanta, including a sharp-angled offering with his team's first shots, while Tobias Enstrom, Chris Thorburn and Ilya Kovalchuk added singles.


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