Drawing-board time for Flames

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

TORONTO -- The Calgary Flames didn't just lose the game, they lost sight of their target, too.

The goal before heading out on their seven-game road swing was at least four wins.

They had a glorious chance to reach that feat, needing just to beat the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs, but instead dropped a disappointing 8-6 game last night that will have them back to the drawing board for the final push to the playoffs.

The question posed to Curtis Glencross was whether the road trip could be classified as a failure, and the answer was succinct.

"Absolutely," the left winger said.

"We set our segments and set our goals, a 60% hockey club, and obviously we let ourselves down big time."

Did it in spectacular fashion.

Spectacularly bad fashion.

Facing a Toronto squad that will be closer to a lottery pick at the draft than a Stanley Cup playoff club, the Flames erased a 3-0 deficit by the end of the first period and then spent the rest of the game playing so poorly in their own zone and so well in the offensive area, the Air Canada Centre became a red-light district before a crowd of 19,356.

"You're never pleased about it, but sometimes in those situations, you have to find a solution and worry about the problems after," Keenan said of his team's terrible start.

"We couldn't find the final solution, but we had some players that pushed back and really tried to get the job done. We just didn't have enough."

Olli Jokinen had a hat-trick and five-point game for Calgary, giving him eight goals in six games since being acquired at the trade deadline.

Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf each netted a goal and three points, and Glencross added a single.

But six markers wasn't enough against Toronto, which had seven different goal scorers, not including Alexei Ponikarovsky, who pocketed four assists.

The Leafs scored twice on the powerplay and had another shot bank in off a defenceman, but goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff had an off-game, too, and was yanked after being victimized a sixth time and stopping only 16 shots.

Rookie Curtis McElhinney allowed one goal and stopped six shots, but still recorded the loss.

But it's hardly fair to blame the netminder.

When the buzzer sounded, enough players were in minus figures to look something like the leaderboard after the opening round at a golf tournament.

Keenan said it was a matter of not having the mental discipline to fight through the end of a long trip.

"The (teams) that are very, very successful have learned how to deal with the demands of travel and the expectations of being able to get it done on the road for long periods of time," Keenan said.

"We didn't succeed on this road trip, but hopefully we learned something."

Yeah, wait until you win the game before getting your mind on being at home.

"You can blame it on the road trip, whatever you want, but we've got to get it our mind set we have to go out and play every night," Glencross said.

"If you don't do that, this proves any team can beat any team."

You'd figure the Flames would have learned that lesson earlier in the trip after a terrible loss to the lowly Atlanta Thrashers.

Instead, the Flames (40-23-6) remains only seven points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks in the Northwest Division chase, and the Canucks have two games in hand.

Wasted points have a chance to bite you back.

"I'm disappointed. I thought we had an opportunity to come out of this a little better off than we have," Keenan said.

"We have a fairly good record on the road overall, compared to teams in league, as we do at home.

"Again, you're trying to push to that elite level and if you want to achieve that goal, you'd have better success than we had."

Mikhail Grabovski scored twice for the Maple Leafs (28-28-13), while Jeff Finger, Jamal Mayers, John Mitchell, Nikolai Kulemin, Jeffrey Hamilton and Jason Blake added singles.

Calgary returns to action at home Wednesday to face the Dallas Stars.


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