SUN Hockey Pool

Flames flat from the get-go

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:36 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Brent Sutter has witnessed plenty of Sidney Crosby magic.

The Calgary Flames head coach couldn't possibly forget Sid the Kid's standout performance at the 2005 World Juniors when he was behind Team Canada's bench.

And you know there are too many moments to remember during Sutter's two seasons coaching the New Jersey Devils against Crosby and the division rival Pittsburgh Penguins.

So, it shouldn't be taken as any form of an insult that Sutter's focus was aimed squarely at his own charges after Crosby scored three times in a 4-1 victory over the Flames.

It's just that Sutter expected better in Saturday's matinee.

"We never had any drive or any push right from the get-go," Sutter said. "In less than 24 hours, we went from one extreme to the other. My concern going into (the game) wasn't how we'd play in the first half. I expected the intensity level and emotional level we needed from the opening faceoff, and as a coach, you manage your bench as the game goes on because you might see some tiredness set in.

"But we never had any emotion or intensity from the opening faceoff."

The Flames had a chance to end a tough road trip -- five games in seven days -- with a half-dozen points. They had momentum, too, coming off Friday afternoon's 3-2 shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers, who were atop the NHL standings after the U.S. Thanksgiving Day turkey was eaten.

But instead of building on that hard-earned and deserved victory, the Flames were over-run before the standing room crowd of 18,317 at the brand new Consol Energy Center and finish the trip with a 1-2-2 mark.

"We were flat in the first period," captain Jarome Iginla said. "Overall, our whole game wasn't as good as it had been on this trip. They deserved to win the game. They outplayed us. Unfortunately, we didn't give our best."

Thanks to goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames did have a prayer.

Kiprusoff was sensational through an opening period in which the Penguins fired 24 shots on goal, seven on a single powerplay chance.

For good measure, he even stopped Crosby on a penalty shot just past the four-minute mark.

"It looked like one of those games going into the second (period) that maybe we could turn it around and steal some points out of the building, but we've got to be better. Bottom line. We can't come out as flat as we did," defenceman Mark Giordano said. "He gave us a chance to win a game we really had no business being in going into the third.

"It sucks because you'd like to have turned it around after the first. We weathered the storm, but a couple of mistakes in the second period cost us."

Rene Bourque spoiled Brent Johnson's shutout bid late in the third period to make it 3-1, which prompted the Flames to push even harder, but it wasn't to be.

Crosby iced the game with a shorthanded empty-netter, finishing a game in which he scored at even strength and on the powerplay.

"You can say whatever you want, but they outplayed us," Giordano said. "We made a push in the last five minutes, but you're down by three goals. You can't wait against a team like that."

Calgary's record is now 9-12-2.

Kiprusoff finished the night with 39 saves but didn't feel like taking any kudos.

"I don't think we played that great a game as a team," Kiprusoff said quietly.

Arron Asham also scored for the Penguins (15-8-2), who rode Johnson's 29-save performance to give them a sixth-straight win and continue their hot run -- 8-0-1 in their last nine.

The Flames return home to face the Minnesota Wild Monday.

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