Calgary comeback falls short

The Calgary Flames' David Moss is stopped by Carolina Hurricanes' Cam Ward. (REUTERS/Ellen Ozier)

The Calgary Flames' David Moss is stopped by Carolina Hurricanes' Cam Ward. (REUTERS/Ellen Ozier)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. — The look head coach Brent Sutter had on his face as he paced the bench behind his Calgary Flames during the awful second period said it all.

But it wasn’t nearly as telling as his words after a 6-5 shootout loss to the host Carolina Hurricanes kicked off a four-game road swing.

He was disgusted.

Forget the point his troops salvaged with an impressive comeback that forced overtime, the three-goal collapse in the second period had the bench boss swallowing his words.

The steel knife in the windpipe came courtesy of a softie allowed by Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff that gave the ’Canes a 4-2 lead and spelled the end of the goaltender’s night. Eric Staal’s weak backhander bounced off the heel of Mark Giordano’s stick but was still moving at a snail’s pace when it found the Finn’s gaping five-hole to give the hosts a two-goal cushion 5:37 into the second frame.

“Too many easy goals,” Sutter said bluntly after the loss. “It’s bothersome.”

Asked if he was concerned about his starter, who allowed four goals on eight shots — although he didn’t have much help from teammate on the first few — Sutter was surprisingly honest.

“Absolutely,” he said, stifling a laugh in his throat. “He’s accountable like everyone else. He’s battling it right now. He’s fighting it. He’s got to work himself through it. He’s got to fight himself through it.

“And Kipper will. But it’s not the time of year … we can’t afford not to have good goaltending. We need to have it.

“Kipper is obviously a very good goaltender, but right now he’s fighting it.”

After Kiprusoff was yanked, Henrik Karlsson came in and stopped 21-of-22 shots and another pair in the shootout. That earned him a glowing review from his coach, who admitted he’ll have a difficult time deciding who to start on a daily basis. For the first time in seven years, the Flames have a legitimate goalie controversy.

“Absolutely. Especially with Kipper fighting it like he is right now,” Sutter said. “(Karlsson) played extremely well.

“What he did in net for us is he battled. That’s what we want to see. That’s what we want to see from our whole team.”

He saw that from his whole team in the early going, as it opened the scoring 4:13 into the contest when Jay Bouwmeester sniped a pass from Jarome Iginla past Cam Ward. It was Iggy’s 500th career assist.

Iginla then gave them a 2-1 lead later in the frame after ’Canes winger Tuomo Ruutu deflected one past Kiprusoff to tie things up.

After that, things completely fell apart for the Flames. Erik Cole scored 2:16 into the second period, when Kiprusoff was slow to react to a centering pass and Bouwmeester didn’t bother to tie up the beefy power forward at the top of the crease.

Staal’s soft goal made matters worse, and Jussi Jokinen scored his second of the night — the only puck to get past Karlsson until Jeff Skinner’s winner in the shootout — to make it a three-goal gap.

“We lacked emotion. We lacked compete. We had not-great goaltending. Everything you don’t want to see in your hockey team, we had in the second period,” Sutter said. “That’s not the type of team I want to have here. Certainly, it’s not the way we want to play. I want a team that’s gonna play hard every shift of every game.

“I can live with mistakes. When I see a lack of battle, it’s bothersome.”

Not even a three-goal comeback can make up for it.

Niklas Hagman scored late in the second, and Curtis Glencross and Rene Bourque tied it up in a third period which saw the visitors storm out on the ice 41 seconds before the puck dropped after a lengthy meeting in the locker-room at intermission.

Whatever Sutter said to them in the locker-room between periods earned them a point. But stuck in 14th place in the NHL’s Western Conference and creeping dangerously close to double-digit deficit in the playoff race, the Flames can’t afford to give any points up.

“It’s getting redundant,” said Flames centre Brendan Morrison. “Every game the last little while here, it seems like we’re doing something to shoot ourselves in the foot. Same story.

“At some point, it’s got to stop. We know we’re in a hole. Before we know it, we’ll be walking off the cliff. It’ll be completely over if we don’t start getting wins.”


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