MOVING FORWARD AFTER SETBACK
It took just 20 minutes for the Edmonton Oilers to unravel what the Calgary Flames accomplished in 40.
Despite taking a 2-0 lead into the third period, the Oilers struck for three goals in a 6:42 span en route for a 4-2 victory over Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday, extending the Flames’ winless streak to six games. In the process, the Oilers halted a five-game losing skid of their own.
“We played I thought a very good first 40 minutes and then major bad decisions that turned into giving them life and putting us on our heels,” coach Bob Hartley said. “We have a young team and we make bad decisions.
“It was two teams that were very fragile. We look how we dominated them in the first period. They couldn’t get organized. That’s a signed of two things: young teams and number two, confidence being very fragile.”
There’s only one way to strengthen that fragility, according to Hartley.
“To win,” he said. “To win plus some guys are mentally stronger than others but every team goes through this but at the same time, just to make sure that we manage the game for a full 60 minutes.”
OFF-ICE CALL ON TARGET
Saturday’s setback came after Hartley gave his club a day away from the ice following a 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
The coach didn’t question that tactic despite the late-game collapse.
“We did the right thing,” Hartley said. “Look at the jump that we had and we were sharp. I thought that we were the better team out there. One bad mistake and one bad line change and bang, it’s in and the third goal, unfortunately that will happen once and a while.”
After managing six shots in the first period against the Stars and just three against the San Jose Sharks in the opening frame on Tuesday, Calgary launched 12 first period shots at Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk, including Sean Monahan's marker to open the scoring for the first time in five games.
After delivering a hard hit to Andrew Ference late in the first period, Lee Stempniak answered the bell and reluctantly dropped the gloves with the Oilers’ captain.
But he felt it shouldn’t have had to come to that.
“I felt it was a clean hit,” said Stempniak, sporting six stitches above his upper lip. “I think that’s just sort of a shame that it’s a clean hit, you have to fight. I think hitting’s part of the game. To me it was a clean hit. The puck was right there, I hit him and I was trying to get the puck. It was two desperate teams playing. I’d like to see clean hits just be part of the game and not have to be answered for all the time.”
It’s a trend that seems to be growing, according to the 30-year-old.
More often than not, a big, clean hit is being followed up by a fight.
“I can’t speak to how it’s always been but you seem to see that a lot,” Stempniak said. “Checking’s always been a part of the game and if it’s a clean hit, you’d like to see it just be part of the game. If it’s malicious or dirty or something like that then there’s no place for that in the game. I think that as long as it’s on the right side of that line, it should just be accepted as part of the game.”
After just four fights in 575 career National Hockey League games, Stempniak now finds himself on a two-game fight streak. He also threw down with Stars defenceman Brenden Dillon on Thursday.
“I think it’s one of those things where the Dallas game was frustration and it just sort of happened,” he said. “I felt like last night I didn’t really have a choice. It just sort of happened in back-to-back games.”
WELCOME TO WINNIPEG
Seeking their first win in seven, the Flames will head east to tackle the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
Hartley knows what’s in store for his club.
Through 21 games, the Jets are 10-9-2 on the season and have rattled off four consecutive victories, scoring 16 goals during that streak heading into their tilt against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night
“They’re playing very well,” Hartley said. “They’re a pretty big team. It’s a loud building. It should be fun.”
The key to victory for Hartley’s squad?
“I think that the first goal is always very important but it’s going to be a game for men,” he said. “There won’t be any room for kids out there.”
“Obviously we all saw the third goal and I sat with him. It’s a mental challenge for him also. I felt that he played very well, gave us a chance. He was not overly busy but in the second period he made two, three pads saves at the other end and I felt that he was sharp. Him too. Even though he’s 26 years old, there’s still a lack of experience at this level. He’s learning too, but he’s working and giving us a chance to play and I like everything I see out of him.”
-Hartley on Reto Berra
The Flames fly off to Winnipeg to tackle a one-off road trip against the Jets on Monday (6 p.m. MT, SNET-W) before returning home for another three-game set at Scotiabank Saddledome.