Both Calgary and Anaheim are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. Prior to their game on Tuesday, both teams were treating it as a game 7, must-win, elimination game. At the end of the evening, a 3-1 victory over Anaheim left Calgary two points out of a playoff spot. The Ducks? Nine points out and falling further behind.
It was not a bad game by the Ducks. It was merely a better game by the Flames.
The Flames were defensively minded, countering the Ducks every move and not allowing them to get many chances.
“Defensively, I thought we reacted well to situations,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter. “I thought we did a good job of reacting properly and making sure our support was good in our zone.”
They were also disciplined, not giving up a single power play to Anaheim.
The Ducks had just gotten their power play going again, after it had lain dormant for too long. Coach Randy Carlyle had acknowledged that “specialty teams will be critical in big games,” but the only specialty team he was able to use was the penalty kill. Unfortunately, it was foiled by a fluke goal.
Steve Staios took a long shot from the blue line that caught Nigel Dawes as he was coming to the front of the net. It bounced off of Dawes leg and into the net behind Jonas Hiller at 15:11. Only :07 seconds had elapsed in the penalty to Steve Eminger, but that made it 1-0.
The Ducks tied up the game in the second period. Miikka Kiprusoff was screened by Todd Marchant and Scott Niedermayer was able to get the puck over the blocker and into the net at 14:24.
Back on an even footing, the Ducks seemed hopeful that things could turn. They did. In Calgary’s favor.
Corey Perry, trying to do too much with the puck, lost it to Jarome Iginla. Rene Bourque took off with it and put it through the five-hole at 18:25 to give the Flames the lead once more.
Going into the third period, the Flames continued to shut the Ducks down at every opportunity. At 3:05, Niklas Hagman got the insurance marker and that was all she wrote. The Flames are now 30-1-1 when leading after two periods. The Ducks could learn a lot from them about how to keep a lead.
“We made a couple mistakes,” said Saku Koivu. “They got a lucky one there in the first on the power play and then they capitalized on the chances they got. It’s a tough one to take.”
It has been a long uphill climb from the pit the Ducks have dug themselves into. Just when you think there is some light, the Ducks slip back once more.
They have a chance to right the ship this evening against Vancouver, but even if they do, the clock is running out on their season.