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Flames lose special teams battle to Stars

After clawing back from a 2-0 deficit, special teams play sunk the Flames in their 4-2 loss to the Stars

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- They've been waiting for the wee wizard to dip into his bag of tricks and deliver one of those jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing Presto! Look Ma No Hands! nights of necromancy this town has become accustomed to.

It finally arrived on Thursday.

But still, the Calgary Flames could not find a way to pull that elusive rabbit of the hat.

"It's … difficult,'' said Johnny Gaudreau softly. "You get the power play there with two or three minutes left. We worked on it the past two or three days here, how important special teams are.

"Then we gave up one on the penalty kill and we didn't score on the power play. So …"

So, another tough pill to swallow, a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.

Video: Gaudreau on two-goal performance, loss against Dallas

The Flames outshot the Texans 31-22, out-chanced them, clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to draw even and seemed to be on the ascent.

Once again, though, special teams proved to be the difference. The Stars clicked on their third and final power play chance of the evening, Tyler Sequin arranging captain Jamie Benn's second of the game at 7:20, then Calgary's moribund power play fizzled on its second chance - a delay of game bench minor - with 3:09 remaining.

The Stars decisive power play came with right winger Alex Chiasson in the penalty box for an offensive-zone indiscretion, a high stick.

"We need that kill,'' said Flames' coach Glen Gulutzan flatly. "The first two kills were really good, really solid. Then we made three mistakes on the (third).

"You make two it's probably going to end up in your net. You make three it is going to end up in your net.

"It wasn't a reach or anything. (Dan) Hamhuis got under (Chiasson's) stick and lifted it into his face. I just watched it five times. But you've gotta be in control of that."

The Stars broke out quickly, despite being outplayed, scoring twice within three minutes of the opening period, on their second and fourth shots. First Lauri Korpikowski netted one, then Benn, sliding seamlessly into open ice before whipping a backhander past Flames' netminder Brian Elliott, at 15:35.

Then the Gaudreau Show cranked into high gear.

The kid from Carney's Point, NJ had his dancing shoes tied on tight this night, flashing that trademark shimmy and shake to the delight of a Scotiabank Saddleome crowd that began serenading him with the familiar "John-NY! John-NY!" chant. 

He potted his first of the game and third of the season rooting around the crease, nudging home the leftovers of a Brett Kulak shot that had squirmed between goaltender Kari Lehtonen's right arm and body. He then nimbly nicked a lovely pass from Kulak into the net in an electric two-minute span early in the second period.

"It was nice to find the net, finally,'' Gaudreau admitted. "I think me, Monny and Chiass (Alex Chiasson) played a good 60 minutes. I thought we were in their zone most of the night, we were breaking out and making those little plays.

"We did a good job in the offensive zone."

Another bright spot was the continued solid play of Kulak, in his seventh start of the season - the two helpers and a plus-2 in a shade over 20 minutes of ice time.

"I'm think I'm just settling into the role I've been given,'' he said. "I'm not trying to go outside my zone. Just keeping it simple. Getting the puck out of my own end, giving it in the forwards' hands and letting them to their job.

"I thought we played good in spurts. But to win hockey games in this league what I'm learning so far is that you have to put in a team effort for a full 60 minutes.

"It's definitely frustrating right now. But we've got to dig deep and go into the character we've got in this room.

"It's gone well for me on a personal note so far but we've still got to get wins as a team."

Video: The Flames coach discusses the 4-2 loss to Dallas

As of this moment, the Flames sport the exact record they had a year ago after 15 starts - 5-9-1 - and that, of course did not end well for them.

"I thought we did a good job tonight,'' critiqued captain Mark Giordano. "Johnny had a couple of timely goals for us. I thought their line was really generating.

"We have to continue to play the way we are five-on-five. We gave them those two goals tonight. We have to clean hat up.

"I dunno, you always have to go look at the game again but I thought we carried the five-on-five play, we had some good looks.

"Again, it's such a tight league, you let them off the hook for one special teams goal and it's the difference in the game again tonight."

They're diminutive sorcerer seems to have re-found his mojo.

But hocus-pocus alone isn't going to magically drag the Flames out of this one-win-in-six-games funk.

"There are certain things we're doing well but we're finding ways to lose,'' said Gulutzan.

"What we need to do is find is step up and find a way to win. And stop playing the victim.

"We have to find that within our locker room.

"To count yourself out or in at this juncture … We just need somebody to step up and take this thing and find ways to win games."

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