February 15, 2012
Flames make Phaneuf pay
By STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Of all the mistakes Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf made — and there are usually a few given the number of minutes he plays and risks he takes — the worst of Tuesday night’s laundry list wasn’t a giveaway.
It was a little hook.
Sticking his blade around speedy Calgary Flames forward Paul Byron as he streaked in on a breakaway in the second period, Phaneuf didn’t have to head to the penalty box.
Worse, he had to watch Byron finish his breakaway on a penalty shot.
With a few nifty dekes and a well-placed shot over the pad and under the blocker, Byron made Phaneuf and his Leafs pay — giving the Flames a 3-1 lead at the midway point during what would become a 5-1 victory for the hosts.
“It was a mistake on my part. It was a bad decision,” the Leafs captain and former Flame acknowledged after the contest. “I got my stick in there. It’s on me.
“They came out hard. They pushed us, and we could never recover.”
And things looked so promising before the puck dropped.
From warmup to the opening faceoff, the Flames knew they’d have to work hard to silence their own crowd.
It tends to be that way when the Leafs come to town, with Blue & White jerseys clouding up the Sea of Red.
Chants of ‘Go Leafs Go’ started early.
Before that, the roar when the visitors hit the ice had more impact than a typical welcome for the Flames at the Saddledome.
But the many Leafs fans in attendance didn’t have much to cheer about during the game.
Taking advantage of many defensive miscues — yes, plenty courtesy of Phaneuf — and some average goaltending from Jonas Gustavsson, the Flames earned the win despite allowing 42 shots against.
Plenty of credit once again goes to the incredible goaltending of Flames MVP Miikka Kipruosoff.
The local fans enjoyed the camera panning the crowd for sad faces sporting enemy colours as the seconds ticked away before the buzzer just as much as the two points their team earned for the effort.
Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen staked the Flames to a 2-0 lead in the first period, and Blake Comeau and Jarome Iginla added goals in the third.
But the biggest was Byron’s.
After being hauled down by Phaneuf on a breakaway, the 22-year-old got another chance with no interference.
Slipping slowly up the right side of the ice, he came across with a few fancy moves, got the goaltender known as The Monster to bite then ripped a wrist-shot over the pad and under the arm to put the Flames up 3-1 midway through the second frame.
“I had a couple last year, and I scored,” the diminutive converted winger said of his history in hockey showdowns with the goaltender.
“I think I’ve been one of the first three or five in the shootouts the last few years in the American League, so I’m used to those situations. You’re just in your own little zone out there.
“Just stay calm, stay focused, go down, make a couple of fakes, read what the goalie gives me and just make the best move.”
He did exactly that to help the Flames improve their record to 9-3-3 since their 9-0 loss to the Bruins in Boston.
“It was a good feeling,” Byron said. “Getting that goal is really important for our team. It seemed to energize us.
“Fans responded, and we just picked our game up.”
On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane