Rough start to Flames' season

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:01 AM ET

CALGARY - Next time, the Calgary Flames should have the drums pounding before the second period, too.

That way, they would have been awake following the first intermission instead of sleepwalking away a lead and losing 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their season-opener Saturday night.

After a boisterous pre-game ceremony featuring taiko drummers to greet the Flames players and pump up the Saddledome masses, the hosts had plenty of jump at the drop of the puck.

The Flames even took a 1-0 lead into the first break thanks to a beauty of a play by Mark Giordano that led to a Curtis Glencross tally.

And after the intermission, it all came crashing down to the chagrin of the 19,289 on hand — and a Flames team looking to end its two-year run of missing the playoffs.

The visiting Penguins didn’t even need the best player in the game in Sidney Crosby — who has been out of action for nine months now due to a concussion — to take over the game with four goals in a middle frame that saw the Flames manage just five shots.

“It cost us,” Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. “We got sloppy. We had way too many turnovers. We didn’t play good hockey. They’re a quick team and we can’t turn the puck over like that. We played the whole period in our zone because of it.

“In the first and third (periods), we were solid, but you can’t give any team a period like we did in that second.”

A theory thrown at Iginla was his team was rusty, having gone nine days from the final pre-season encounter, while the Penguins had opened their season a couple of days before, but Iginla wouldn’t buy it.

“We had a good first period. We were in good shape,” he said. “We got really sloppy. We got outworked and just kept giving them the puck. We were ready to go. There was good energy in here and we had a good first (period).”

It really was all going according to plan for the Flames when the second period started. Not only were they holding the edge thanks to Glencross’ goal — the second straight year he’s tallied the first goal of the season for the Flames — but they had nearly a minute of powerplay time to try building on that lead.

Instead, Tyler Kennedy scored seconds after coming out of the sin bin, converting on a four-on-one rush, and then Matt Niskanen, Craig Adams and Evgeni Malkin each scored in the one-sided span.

“For whatever reason, it was their period,” Giordano said. “They took it to us. We did little things wrong and basically that’s the game. You can’t have a letdown like that.”

Added head coach Brent Sutter: “I thought it kind of snowballed after that first goal. We had some turnovers. It kind of was a sloppy second period. They generated stuff from their speed. Our pace to the game dropped off after that first period, and they fed off it.”

To their credit, the Flames made a game of it with third-period goals by Rene Bourque and Olli Jokinen, but the last-ditch effort was snuffed by Jordan Staal’s empty-netter with 4.6 seconds remaining.

For two teams that have pretty much no history or rivallry, things certainly became heated, especially late in the second period.

The first set of fireworks went off when Calgary’s Cory Sarich drilled Matt Cooke with an open-ice hit and the second came when Glencross and Malkin exchanged pleasantries with a couple of slashes and punches.


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