CALGARY, Alberta--For the second time in just over a week, penalties were the killer for the Colorado Avalanche against the Calgary Flames.
The Flames scored three power-play goals on Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome and downed the Avalanche 4-1. When the two teams met on Dec. 27 in Denver, Calgary scored on two of its three man-advantage chances, while Colorado went scoreless in its six.
"There were stick penalties, really. I don't know how many high-sticking penalties we had and whatnot, but those [hurt]," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar on his club's most recent trips to the penalty box against the Flames. "Special teams was a big part of the game obviously tonight, and we've been undisciplined with our sticks and tonight didn't seem much different. It ended up costing us the hockey game. They ended up getting three power-play goals. Obviously, that's the difference."
Much like their last meeting, the Avs and Flames needed a little time to get going, with both teams trying to get a read on the other. While possession was fairly even through the first half of the opening stanza, Calgary did a better job of getting pucks to the net and finally beat goaltender Calvin Pickard nine seconds into its first power play late in the period.
The Flames outshot the Avalanche 9-4 in the first period, marking the second straight game Colorado had been held to low single digits in the statistical category.
"The first period was kind of dull for both teams," said Joe Colborne. "It was not much there, but we didn't really shoot ourselves in the foot. Then we come out in the second period and make stupid plays."
Calgary went on to outshoot Colorado by 14-7 margins in each of the final two stanzas.
Still, the Avs were just one shot away from tying the contest in the second period until Mikael Backlund picked up the Flames' second man-up marker with 2:40 left until the intermission. Calgary extended its lead to three at 13:25 of the third period and Johnny Gaudreau put a cherry on top of the victory with a 5-on-3 power-play score 44 seconds later.
"They shoot," Bednar said. "They do it repetitively. They're efficient in getting their scoring chances, and we have to be better in that area, for certain."
The Avalanche has the talent to shoot and score more, but Jarome Iginla noted one of the reasons why neither has been happening as of late is because the team isn't confident enough when it has the puck.
"We have some very creative guys, guys who when we're going, we can create chances, we can score goals," Iginla said. "We've been pressing, and when you're pressing and you see a guy open, you kind of double clutch. I know myself, I'm doing it."
Colorado now heads home, winless on its two-outing Western Canadian trip that began Monday in Vancouver. The Avalanche starts a four-game homestand Friday versus the New York Islanders before having five days off before its next contest.
Much like they did in Chicago prior to the holidays, the Avs want to go into a break with a win.
"It's a big game," said Mikko Rantanen. "We haven't played well at home, so we have to bear down there and just try and forget this game and be fresh when we play next time."
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov is continuing to skate as he tries to battle back from a nagging groin injury, and the team should know more regarding his status once it arrives back in Denver following Wednesday's contest in Calgary.
Varlamov didn't make the two-game trip with the club, instead staying home to focus on recovery.
"He's progressing. He's at home skating on his own right now and doing some work off the ice," said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. "We felt it was best, with him not being able to play on the trip, to leave him there and get some work done. We'll see when we get back there tomorrow and try to figure out exactly what his timeline's going to be."
The 28-year-old goalie has been out of the Avs' lineup for the past six contests; he last played Dec. 22 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Varlamov has been fighting this ailment for more than three weeks now, as he's missed nine of the last 11 games because of it.
Joe Colborne grew up going to games at the Saddledome as a kid, and he then lived the dream of playing for his hometown club when he suited up for the Flames for the past three seasons.
Wednesday's contest was a return home for Colborne, but a first on the other side of the ice. He was wearing the opposing team's colors and coming out of the visitor's locker room with the Avalanche.
"This is the first time I've been in here for a game or anything like that," Colborne said after Tuesday's practice. "I think I've been in here once or twice before for (Flames) training camp, but that's it."
It was also a homecoming for Iginla, who played 15-plus seasons in Calgary before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013.
Iginla had the assist on Patrick Wiercioch's goal, the only one the Avs scored on the night. He now has nine points (three goals and six assists) in 10 career outings against the Flames, five of which have been played in Calgary.
"Lots of great memories, and I think it always will be (special to come here)," Iginla said after Wednesday's practice. "Not as strange each time. First it is quite an adjustment, and [it gets] more comfortable each time. But always fun to come back for sure."
He now has 572 points (268 goals and 304 assists) in 613 career games at the Scotiabank Saddledome.