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Flames struggle in tough Islanders test

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I really believe that the Islanders showed us why they're having such a great season.Bob Hartley

CALGARY, AB -- It’s a tough lesson, but one that the Calgary Flames can put in their back pocket.

In falling 2-1 to John Tavares and the New York Islanders, the Flames got a first-hand look at one of the NHL’s elite and a team that is pulling out of a rebuilding phase themselves.

“I really believe,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley started, “that the Islanders showed us why they're having such a great season.”

Indeed, they have.

In taking two points from the Flames, the Islanders have moved into the League-lead with 26 wins this season. Their 12 road wins -- again, one in Calgary -- is the most from any Eastern Conference team this season.

And it came in tough fashion to swallow for the Flames. They outworked Calgary.

“They were just getting pucks first and out-battling us,” Flames forward Josh Jooris said. “That's what happened that first period. We kind of showed some glimpses of energy and stuff, but it was too late.”

“They're a really good team. They're really deep. They've got all four lines that can play in the o-zone as well as the d-zone. They shut us down tonight in their d-zone, blocked a lot of shots and paid the price.”

Tavares put the Islanders up 1-0 at the 8-minute mark of the first period with both Lance Bouma (tripping) and Matt Stajan (faceoff violation) in the penalty box. Whipping the puck around, the Islanders showed patience before Ryan Strome fed Tavares off the opposite post for the game’s first goal.

“Obviously that's going to happen and it's kind of out of our control but when that does happen, we have to find a way to kill those off for our teammates,” Sean Monahan said. “But unfortunately they scored a goal early in the game and we couldn't get it back.”

New York grinded through a rough second period before Tavares added another, extending the visitor’s lead to two.

The goal came after Calgary had two chances with the man-advantage earlier in the period to gain traction.

They didn’t.

“We need a lot more,” Monahan said. “We're not happy about that. Power plays are a big part of the game and that's how you've got to win hockey games. When you have that man advantage, you have to find a way to bury one.”

Johnny Gaudreau replied with his 13th late, but the Flames couldn’t muster another comeback.

“We battled back -- we battled to the end -- but we didn't get off to a good start,” Jooris said. “That first period wasn't the greatest and we got behind the eight-ball early.

“It's disappointing. It's our game, what we pride ourselves on. We just got outworked tonight.”

But the Islanders also provided a model for what the Flames hope to be in the near future.

“Their speed is just unbelievable,” Hartley said. “They come at you, they work hard, they're well-structured ... I would say that's one of the best teams we've played so far this year.”

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