December 31, 2011
Flames blow lead, lose to Sens
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Sometimes even a big lead is tough to protect.
Especially when you feel fortunate you’re up in the first place.
So when the Calgary Flames found themselves escaping the first period with a three-goal advantage — in large part because of the goaltending of rookie Leland Irving — they talked about making sure they play better the rest of the way in an effort to make it hold.
But the lead gradually collapsed, with the speedy Ottawa Senators scoring twice in the second period, once more in the third, and then cementing the comeback with an overtime winner from captain Daniel Alfredsson — his 400th NHL goal.
The 4-3 loss by the Flames brings their record to 1-1-1 over the first half of their six-game post-Christmas road swing, but they’ve looked like a bunch of turkeys for most of it.
“Even in the first, we weren’t that sharp,” said Flames winger Rene Bourque, who put the Flames up 1-0 in the first 23 seconds with a lucky bounce that saw his pass bank in off an opponent. “We didn’t play well tonight, plain and simple.
“We didn’t deserve to be up 3-0. We let them back in the game in the second. In the third, they get the early goal, and they get the powerplay in overtime.”
Bourque was sitting in the penalty box when Alfredsson’s milestone brought the crowd to its feet. He didn’t like the holding call, but the game didn’t come down to that one play.
“We’ve just got to be better. We all knew on the bench the way we were playing. We were talking about it, but nothing got done,” Bourque said.
“We were turning the puck over a lot.
“The first three games of this road trip: We win the first game, probably didn’t deserve to win that one, either; we get beat last night; and then again tonight.
“We’re not sharp right now.”
Irving might be the exception. He stopped 45 pucks in the losing cause and has points in all three of his NHL starts so far.
“Disappointing,” he said. “We got the start we wanted, got the early lead. It felt like we ran out of gas there. It felt like we were hanging on the rest of the night.
“They had some good chances tonight. When you give skilled players like that time and space, they’re gonna take advantage of it. They kind of took it to us towards the end there.”
Curtis Glencross and Chris Butler scored on the powerplay to add to Bourque’s score and put the Flames in the driver’s seat after 20 minutes, but Nick Foligno responded early in the second to give the Sens some jump.
Zack Smith beat Irving with an accurate wrister later in the period, and then Erik Karlsson tied things up early in the third.
“We just didn’t play smart here tonight. We weren’t a smart team. We did everything after we got the lead to beat ourselves. From that point on, we weren’t an aggressive team. We were very passive,” Flames head coach Brent Sutter said.
“Since we came back after Christmas, we haven’t played up to our standards.
“It’s been a very casual approach in how we have to play. We’ve had spurts where we’ve been OK and spurts where we’ve been on the other side. There’s been too many where we’ve been on the other side these last three games.
“We’ve played .500 hockey here in the last three games because of it. You have a team up like that, you’ve got to close the deal.”