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Flames lament disappointing effort against Devils

Slow start Achilles heel for Calgary in 2-1 loss to New Jersey

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

Right at the moment, they're doing a pretty fair impression of legendary French mime Marcel Marceau's famous 'Walking Against the Wind' routine.

The Calgary Flames might look like to be making headway, but in reality …

Win. Loss.

Win. Loss.

Win. Loss.

The last half-dozen starts for the big team in this town have been a decidedly mixed bag.

"We were sitting here waiting for them, they came off a back-to-back,'' murmurred defenceman Deryk Engelland, trying to digest the lost opportunity of a 2-1 deflater to the New Jersey Devils Friday night. "We should've come out flying and instead it was the complete opposite.

"They came out flying, got us on our heels and we couldn't push back."

With the most highly-anticipated collision against those dastardly Edmonton Oilers in ages on tap Saturday night, and the chance to draw within a point of their arch rivals in the Pacific Division sparring, the Flames fizzled.

"We got out-battled the first half the game,'' said centre Matt Stajan, "so we had to chase the game.

"You can't win in the league like that. We were flat, for whatever reason. You can pick out a number of (reasons) it might've been.

"Any time you're on home ice you have an edge. Especially when a team plays the night before. No excuses.

"It's on us."

The only Flame to wriggle out of a straightjacket on this night was centre Sean Monahan, ending a 11-game goal drought.

Traditionally, the Devils are like quicksand. The harder you struggle, the deeper you sink.

"For me, personally, that's the best I've seen that team play in terms of generating offence and playing with speed,'' said Calgary goaltender Chad Johnson. "In years past they were a lot slower.

"They have a lot more skill up front and they come hard. They had a tough game in Edmonton last night (a 3-2 OT loss) and it seemed they were ready to go.

"It was disappointing to get the result we got."

Video: CGY Recap: Monahan scores in 2-1 loss to Devils

Were the Flames guilty of being caught with one eye firmly fixed on Rogers Place and a possible revitalizing of the Battle of Alberta.

"Um, I … don't know,'' replied Johnson. "I can only speak for myself. My focus was on tonight. We just didn't get it done.

"Now we're going to have to regroup."

Inexplicably locked in a deep stupor at the 7 p.m. puck drop, the Flames surrendered the first goal, Kyle Palmieri wristing a should-had shot behind Johnson short-side at 6:22 of the first period.

Rather than that bit of impertinence sparking a response, the malaise only deepened. New Jersey doubled-down on its lead in the period's closing two minutes with Michael Frolik serving a holding minor.

Taylor Hall - fresh off his extravagantly-hyped return to Edmonton 24 hours earlier - notched his 10th of the season.

The Devils outshot their hosts 14-7.

"It was a pitiful start for us,'' grumbled Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan, clearly miffed. "I thought they came out really strong, they executed and we made two mistakes.

"We made a mistake on the penalty kill and we made a mistake on a pinch on the first goal. Other than that we were out-battled. The whole time.

"When you lose battle after battle, that's what happens.

"At the beginning, we didn't have our 'A' game. You can't take a night off in this league. You can't take off a period.

"There should've been no reason (for the tepid start). We had a good practice yesterday. (We had an) optional morning skate. We were well rested and we should've been ready."

Video: Matt Stajan talks about the loss to the Devils

The middle stanza seemed to be playing out in similar fashion to the first until Monahan, retrieving the rebound of a Dougie Hamilton shot, ended his personal goal outage at 14:04.

Not even that reprieve could light a fire in Flame bellies, though, their own lack of decisiveness and New Jersey goaltender Kirk Kincaid combining to a scoreless third.

It was left to Johnson, actually, to produce the period's top stop, shutting the wickets to deny Jersey winger Miles Wood at the 25-minute mark, sailing in on a breakaway that would've ended any doubt.

So rather than an opportunity to leapfrog the Oilers Saturday, the aim of the Flames now is to make up lost ground and draw back to within one point.

Now they are the ones finding themselves on the business end of a back-to-back doubleheader and must find the impetus the Devils did against them on Friday.

"Tonight stings,'' confessed Stajan, "but we got what we deserved.

"We move forward. It'll be a fun one tomorrow night. A lot of people have been looking forward to it. A big two points. They're a team right ahead of us and try to get back the two points we lost tonight.

"And put in a lot better effort.

"We'll be an eager group tomorrow because that wasn't acceptable tonight."

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