The Calgary Flames were expected to administer a sound beating.
And they did just that. On themselves.
Last night, the Flames were facing a Vancouver team missing four of its top-five defencemen but failed to take advantage of the situation, dropping a 2-1 clash at the Saddledome.
"We had an opportunity to put a decent- sized gap in between us and continue to try to take advantage of the games we had in hand. We didn't do that tonight," said Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, who scored Calgary's only goal.
"We gave them some more life, which we can't do. We can't afford that."
Both clubs awaken this morning tied atop the Northwest Division standings, although Calgary has two games in hand. Colorado sits one point in arrears.
The first game out of the Olympic break should have been an easy victory for Calgary.
The Canucks were without defencemen Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo, both of whom were injured at the Olympic tournament, as well as Ed Jovanovski and Nolan Baumgartner. Vancouver's blueline corps had more members of the Manitoba Moose than NHL regulars.
Also, Vancouver's Sedin twins arrived in the Stampede City later than other Olympians, having taken a detour to Sweden to celebrate their gold-medal win.
Calgary opened the scoring and outplayed the Canucks through the first 38 minutes but bad penalties and an inability to convert scoring chances ultimately cost the Flames two points.
"I thought both teams, in the first period, looked like they hadn't played for a while," said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter.
"And the first 12 minutes of the second period, we were really good and had a lot of opportunities but didn't finish it. And then we took four penalties."
Those trips to the sin bin sapped Calgary's momentum and led to Vancouver's comeback -- goals by Markus Naslund and Anson Carter, just nine second apart, late in the middle frame.
From there, goaltender Alex Auld and his defence corps of non-household names --Bryan Allen, Kevin Bieksa, Steve McCarthy, Wade Brookbank, Tomas Mojzis and Sven Butenschon -- snuffed the Flames offence.
Flames right winger Darren McCarty pinned the loss on a lack of urgency.
"To lose two points at home, especially against Vancouver, is tough. No excuse for it," McCarty said.
"We were all well-rested and ready to play."
Calgary's homestand continues tomorrow when the St. Louis Blues come to town.