A shorthanded Flames squad surrendered control of their own playoff fate with a 5-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Friday night. The Flames faced a feisty Oiler team who came out with a level of energy the Flames simply could not match.
An already depleted Flames team hit the ice without two core players, as Dion Phaneuf and Curtis Glencross were both last minute scratches. The Flames skated only fifteen, three lines deep on offense and defence; the last time a team in an NHL game had that few warm bodies the St. Louis Blues in 1986.
GAME IN A MINUTE
THE NUMBERS GAME
15- The number of skaters (not counting goalkeepers) that the Flames had on the ice in the loss.
23- Number of years since an NHL team skated only 15 players. The St. Louis Blues last did January 23, 1986 against the Los Angeles Kings, a game they won 4-3.
1- Number of games left in the regular season/Number of points needed by the Vancouver Canucks to claim the Northwest Division title.
THE BIG SAVE
Miikka Kiprusoff continued his stellar play Friday night, stifling Patrick O'Sullivan in the second as the frustrated Oiler tried to beat Kipper short side 5 minutes into the 2nd. O'Sullivan's frustration continued when his shot was met by Kipper's left pad. Though O'Sullivan did finally solve Kipper late in the game, Miikka had his number throughout the contest.
WHY THE FLAMES LOST
A spent and short-handed Calgary team were consistantly frustrated by Oiler goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, as the game progressed the team took more chances on offense which resulted in opportunities for the Oilers which they converted.
OUR THREE STARS
1. Cammalleri- Lone goal for Flames
2. Lundmark- Buzzed most of the night
3. Kiprusoff- Steady, held the fort
Injured players include Cory Sarich (lower body), Robyn Regehr (lower body), Andre Roy (upper body), Mark Giordano (shoulder) and Rene Bourque (ankle). Wayne Primeau (foot) and Rhett Warrener (shoulder) are out indefinitely. Curtis Glencross (undisclosed), and Dion Phaneuf (undisclosed) are day-to-day but both are hopefull for tomorrow's rematch.
The Flames welcome the Oilers to the 'Dome Saturday night for the final game of the season at 8:00 pm (CBC, The Fan 960).
In a game with crucial postseason implications, head coach Mike Keenan was disappointed in the teams' effort.
"We could have had a better effort than what we had tonight," said Keenan, who dismissed the notion that fatigue had something to do with the group's level of intensity.
"Our top players had the same amount of ice time as they usually do."
The Flames created some positive offensive opportunities throughout the game, but were consistently thwarted by Oilers' back-up goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who started in place of Dwayne Roloson after he had started the previous 36 games. Following the game, Keenan was particularly focused on his top offensive players.
"We had a lot of opportunities to score goals... we didn't have the instincts to bury (the puck)," said Keenan.
"I expected more out of our best players... they've got to come out with a lot more determination in that part of their game."
Defenseman Adam Pardy was frustrated with the offensive results as well.
"We weren't able to put the puck in the net and their power play was working for them," said Pardy, who did admit finding it difficult to plat with such a short-handed squad.
"It was tough, it kind of felt like pee-wee (level hockey)."
Despite a fairly even, wide-open beginning to the game, the Flames allowed the Oilers to build confidence early, which resulted in a quick two-goal spurt in the 2nd period. Ales Kotalik opened the scoring off of a one-timer at the top of the circle from Ales Hemsky with 5 minutes remaining in the second. The goal came in transition after Drouin-Deslaurier robbed Olli Jokinen at the other end.
Steve MacIntyre followed up quickly with another goal to make it 2-0, scoring his second career goal by one-timing a pass in the slot that came from Kyle Brodziak from behind the net.
The Flames came out enthusiastically in the 3rd period, but the wheels began to fall off when Shawn Horcoff made it 3-0 with 8 minutes remaining in the third, after taking a feed from Sheldon Souray who rushed the offensive zone.
Mike Cammalleri was finally able to break through 36 seconds later when he took a feed from Olli Jokinnen in the slot and beat Drouin-Deslaurier for his 37th goal of the year.
Unfortunately any elation from that goal was short-lived, as less than a minute later Patrick O'Sullivan finally solved Miikka Kiprusoff short side to restore the 3-goal advantage.
That goal marked the end of Kiprusoff's night, but his backup didn't fare much better, as Sheldon Souray one-timed a shot from the point on the power play with less than four minutes to play past Curtis McElhinney to make it 5-1.
The loss means that the Flames are no longer in control of their own playoff positioning. Vancouver currently holds a two point advantage in the division. Both teams play tomorrow, and the Flames need a win against the Oilers and for the Canucks to lose in regulation time to the Avalanche. For the players, keeping focused is the key. Adam Pardy for one remains upbeat heading into the final game of the season.
"We know we're right there... we've got to stay positive, stay confident," said Pardy, "we know what we've got in the dressing room."
The Flames host the Oilers Saturday at 8:00 pm on CBC and The Fan 960.