LOS ANGELES, CA -- It’s not the easiest of back-to-backs to play.
Far from it, most NHL clubs will attest.
And after a sullen two-game trek through the Golden State, the Calgary Flames won’t mind leaving California in the rearview until next season.
A night after taking an 8-3 thumping from the Anaheim Ducks at the unfriendly confines of the Honda Center, the Flames took a gentler drubbing in a 3-0 loss against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Thursday.
“You look at both teams...they have lots of experience throughout their lineup,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said. “It’s the balance of a hockey club. That’s where the strength of their hockey clubs…starting in goal and then you go to the blue line and to up front. The (Anze) Kopitars and the (Ryan) Getzlafs and the (Corey) Perrys…all those guys. They started in this league just like Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
“You gain experience by playing this game and you get better. Those are two great teams, but I really like the way we played tonight. I felt we gave ourselves a chance. I’m proud of the boys.”
The Kings, who temporarily surrendered top spot in the Pacific Division when Anaheim trumped Calgary on Wednesday, reclaimed the lead in convincing fashion against the Flames.
Joni Ortio made 25 saves in the loss for Calgary, who are a combined 0-8 against the Ducks and Kings this season.
“It’s been a tough year for us in our own division,” Flames forward Mikael Backlund said. “I don’t know why. They’re heavy teams to play. They play physical. They play smart. Goaltending. They’re hard to play against. We’ve got to find a way to play the same. At the same time, they’re making a lot of good plays out there. At times we can put ourselves in bad spots.”
The first mark on Ortio’s record came courtesy Jeff Carter, who scored 46 seconds into the second period by deflecting Drew Doughty’s point shot on the power play behind the Flames goaltender to stake the Kings to a 1-0 advantage.
Carter put the second dent in, too, doubling the lead with his second of the period at 6:14. Milan Lucic cut in off the wing on TJ Brodie before spinning and firing a tape-to-tape backhand pass between a few skates that Carter tapped by Ortio to put Los Angeles up 2-0.
The Flames responded. Almost.
Backlund beat Jonathan Quick with exactly four minutes remaining in the frame, but the goal was quickly called back because of incidental contact Joe Colborne made on the Los Angeles netminder. Flames coach Bob Hartley challenged the judgment, but the ruling on the ice was upheld.
“I thought we battled hard, got a lot of looks,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “I think obviously the difference was a couple things. The second goal was a mental error, a bad line change by me. The disallowed goal was close but that was a tough one, too. Two big swings in the game I thought.
“The explanation was that our guy was in the blue paint and obstructed the goalie from making a save. You can’t really argue the judgment call there. It can go either way. Some of them definitely don’t look like much but they get called back.”
Under siege late in the second, Ortio made significant stops on Vincent Lecavalier and Carter before Monahan's shot with a second remaining in the period was turned aside by Quick.
Ortio denied Carter’s hat-trick bid 8:30 into the third, going post-to-post to get a pad on a wide shot that bounced out to the Kings’ scorer on the opposite side of the net.
But after Bennett hit the post at 12:20 in an attempt to break Quick’s shutout bid, Carter’s centering pass hit Andy Andreoff in the slot and skipped behind Ortio with 7:22 remaining to seal the 3-0 win.
"I think we've got to do the little things right and play the right way," Giordano said. "I thought our effort was a lot better tonight. Just bring that effort and character and go from there."