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Gulutzan, Flames lament 'embarrassing' loss to Oilers

Flames back to the drawing board following setback

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

No silver linings. No soft-sell. No candy-coated power-of-positive-thinking spins.

Not on this night.

Nothing but stark reality.

"Well, it's embarrassing,'' said Calgary Flames boss Glen Gulutzan with blunt honesty.

"Embarrassing.

"I don't talk to the guys after the game, win or lose. I talk to them the next day.

"Certainly in the coaches room, emotions are high.

"It's embarrassing.

"Our resolve to stick to it wasn't there."

For the first time in 31 years, since the Battle of Alberta began to build on its legend, the Edmonton Oilers have swept the seasonal series against their historic and geographic rivals.

Only a week ago, as they prepared to face the New Jersey Devils, the Flames found themselves eagerly anticipating heading up north with the opportunity to leapfrog the Oilers the next night and into second place in the Pacific Division standings.

Video: Gulutzan talks about his club's loss to the Oilers

They were shaded, surprisingly, 2-1 by the Devils that evening, then lost heroically 2-1 in a shootout at Rogers Place 24 hours later.

What a difference a week can make.

Because as of Saturday night, in the wake of a distressing 7-3 drubbing on home ice, they now find themselves a full nine points adrift of the big Oil Drop.

"To get down early like that and have no push…" murmured captain Mark Giordano, completely at a loss in explaining such a sleepwalking start, his voice trailing off.

 "It's on us.

"That starts with the older guys, the leaders in this room. That's a bunch of games in a row we've fallen behind and haven't been able to get any push-back in our rink.

"It's unacceptable.

"They just ate us up today."

One of those who, by his response to the mounting indignities, obviously took things personally, was rookie Matthew Tkachuk. Besides scoring his side's first goal, the 19-year-old battled and clawed all night long, start to finish.

 If only more of his mates had shown near as much spunk.

"It definitely hurts,'' acknowledged pivot Sean Monahan, whose early-third-period goal raised his consecutive-game snipes to a career-high five. "Here, as a team, it hurts everybody."

"It's frustrating. There's not much else to say. It's a bad loss for us.

"It's happened too many times, we get scored on and it seems we're a little big fragile.

"We've got to be able to bounce back as a group.

"When we get scored on, we've got to be ready to bounce back. Our compete level wasn't high enough from the start of the game."

Calgary boy Chad Johnson, so pumped at making his first start in Flames' togs in a Battle of Alberta that had captured his imagination those many years ago as a kid, lasted two ticks less than six minutes, surrendering three goals on four shots.

A faceoff tie thrust the Oilers ahead at 1:17, Anton Slepyshev slipping in to count his third of the season. Zack Kassian's lovely, flipped, cross-crease back-door pass to Oskar Klefbom doubled the Edmonton lead at 5:22 before Jordan Eberle, all of 36 seconds later, scored from off the right wing.

Johnson's night had reached a conclusion.

 "Obviously I put Els ( Brian Elliott, coming out of the bullpen in extra-long relief) in a bad spot,'' said Johnson later.

 "I put the team in a bad spot.

"Four shots, made one save. It wasn't what I had in mind. And it wasn't the game anyone had pictured it to be."

There was a mild rebuttal from the locals to open the second period, but when Edmonton wonderboy Connor McDavid sifted between two Flames to bury a snap-shot behind Elliott at 3:57, the gap was always going to be too much to make up.

In sorting through the rubble, the man in charge couldn't find much, if anything, worth salvaging.

"I don't,'' confessed Gulutzan, "even know where to start.

"I think we've got to re-look at everything. How we play without a lead is probably the top thing.

"You have a game plan for a team. Most of you probably saw the game last week (that aforementioned shootout loss) and then you allow three on five (actually four) shots.

"And now the whole two days you spent preparing are out the window. The game's opened up."

What really hurt from a Calgary perspective is the lack of resiliency in a clash that held such high expectations, so much anticipation - Hockey Night in Canada, coast-to-coast, provincial … the whole nine yards.

 "Oh yeah, there was a lot riding on this game,'' acknowledged Giordano. "We had a chance to close the gap. But right off the hop we weren't very aware and they capitalized.

"What's concerning is we've gotta have more push-back. We've got to be more resilient when things do go bad.

"For whatever reason, we get down and we're giving up more."

The Flames now pack their bags and head out on a three-game pre-All Star Break junket, with stops, in order, ain Toronto, Montreal and then Ottawa.

On the flight east Sunday, they'll have plenty to ponder.

"I think,'' said Gulutzan candidly, "we just stunk one out."

The pervading aroma, he's banking on, serving as an unsettling reminder in the days ahead.

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