NEW YORK, NY -- An assist in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers moved Johnny Gaudreau into a tie for first in the National Hockey League with nine assists.
The rest of the Calgary Flames? Just 19.
The slumping Flames are searching for more.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing in this league and right now we can call it what we want, bounces and we’re not getting them … last year we did and this and that, but we’ve got to find a way to win, whether it’s going the extra mile and digging in or whether it’s trying something where we can generate a bit more because right now we’re not scoring enough goals,” said alternate captain Matt Stajan.
“It’s the one line that’s scoring all our goals. In this league, you need the depth guys scoring. We’ve all got to be better.”
Understandably, a lack of secondary scoring is playing a starring role in Calgary’s 2-6-0 start this season.
Calgary’s top trio of Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler and Sean Monahan have six of Calgary’s 18 goals this season, and have combined for 22 points.
The rest of the Flames have amassed 22 points.
“We’re talking about secondary scoring, we’re talking about capitalizing on our chances,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “That’s where the game is. If you capitalize on those chances you’re giving yourself a chance to build a lead.
"A one-goal lead in this league is not a very big lead and especially against a team like this that they throw four lines coming at you, six D that move the puck very well. I thought we competed with them for a good part of the game, then they got those two goals in the third period and sealed the deal.”
Sunday in New York proved it.
Calgary had themselves a one-goal lead courtesy of Gaudreau’s ninth assist of the year, a tap-in from Hudler just 3:06 in after a play at the blue line by Monahan forced a turnover.
It was the Flames lone goal of the game.
Trailing 2-1 heading in the third period, the Rangers tacked on an additional pair under two minutes apart.
It gave Calgary a loss to open a three-game road trip that continues Monday in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders.
“We’ve got to find a way to put the pucks in the net,” captain Mark Giordano said. “I thought the chances were there by all of us. They’re a top team for a reason. They block a lot of shots. It was tough to get shots through tonight. I thought we did a good job, especially the first 40 minutes of creating turnovers and creating chances. It was unfortunate to come in here 2-1. Them getting the third one really hurts and we had to start forcing.”
The pain of a slumping secondary is clear.
But perhaps no statistic sums it up better than one: Calgary has yet to take a lead into the third period.
Twice, through the first eight games of the season, the Flames have found a way to come back to take a win.
It’s hardly an ideal recipe.
“You can’t chase all the time,” Stajan said. “It’s easy to play when you’re down two, three goals. You’re going to get chances because the other team sits back. We’ve got to find a way to really win that second period. Our starts are okay. When you’re chasing all game and you give up a chances and they score, it’s like a knife in your back. It hurts your team for momentum.
“You’re down going into the third period, you’re going to lose…I don’t know what the stats are but more often than not. Last year we had success coming back but we still lost more games than we won. We just can’t play the way we have going into the third.
“We’ve got to set ourselves up. It’s a bad habit right now that we have where we wait, we wait and it’s the third period and it’s too late. We’ve got to fix it up here quickly. Games keep coming and we keep missing opportunities for points.”