by Mike Board
Seven months ago as the NHL regular season was coming to a close, the Nashville Predators beat up on the Calgary Flames to sweep the four-game season series with a 9-3 in Nashville.
|Forward Lines |
|Tanguay ||Langkow ||Iginla |
|Friesen ||Lombardi ||Kobasew |
|Huselius ||Lundmark ||Amonte |
|Nilson ||Ritchie ||McCarty |
|Defence Pairings |
|Regehr ||Ference || |
|Hamrlik ||Zyuzin || |
|Giordano ||Warrener || |
|Kiprusoff ||McLennan || |
So, entering Saturday's game against the Predators, the Flames knew just how dangerous Nashville could be.
And, if they didn't they only had to look at their 1-6-3 record against the Predators in the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
The Flames, coming off a 6-1 trouncing of Phoenix, had taken a step in the right direction and were, by most accounts, ready to play an up-tempo game against the Predators.
But too many penalties and too slow a start put the Flames down 2-0 through the first half of the game and they never recovered as Nashville went on to win 3-2 in front of 19,289 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
The Preds have now won six of their last seven games and six straight against Calgary.
Calgary showed most of its life in the third period, with captain Jarome Iginla scoring twice, the last at 16:37 to make it 3-2.
"We played better in the third period. For some reason we don't do the things we have to do to be successful right off the start of the game," said defenceman Robyn Regehr. "We don't have enough guys ready to go. We need everyone ready to go on this team. We can't rely on one line, four defencemen or one goalie. We need the whole team going and we didn't have that tonight."
J.P. Dumont scored with 12 seconds left in the first period when the Flames were unable to clear the zone. Dumont snapped in a loose puck from the edge of the crease to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.
The Flames were flat-footed in the first and the Preds, one of the better skating teams in the Western Conference, pounced on the opportunity to use their speed, firing 14 shots at starter Miikka Kiprusoff.
The Flames goalie made some big saves in the first particularly on second and third chances as the Predators crashed the Flames net looking for rebounds, which they found plenty of.
The Flames managed just four shots on net in the first period and were dominated for the first half of the game as the Predators won the races to the puck and most of the little battles.
"We got our butts kicked in the first two periods," said Regehr.
Back-to-back penalties to Rhett Warrener and Andrei Zyuzin gave the Predators time to re-group and the line of Paul Kariya, Martin Erat and Jason Arnott, after some impressive sustained pressure and puck control in the Flames zone, made it 2-0 when Arnott's blast from the slot beat Kiprusoff at 10:21.
At the time, the Preds were outshooting the Flames 10-3.
Calgary showed spurts of life in the second period -- Alex Tanguay being foiled on a partial breakway and Jamie Lundmark, Tony Amonte and Zyuzin all missing good scoring chances. As the period wound down the Flames managed more chances and started getting to the net to agitate Preds goalie Tomas Vokoun.
That carried over to the third period and when Iginla scored on the power play at 3:23 -- shortly after Kiprusoff stoned Steve Sullivan on a breakaway -- the Flames were back in the game.
"We got skating with them but in the first half we were watching," said Iginla. "We didn't have our feet moving. They were moving and creating chances. If it wasn't for Kipper...He gave us a chance to win.
"Yeah, they are a quick team but we are a quick team, too and I think we showed that in the third period but we know you can't play just one period."
Shea Weber's point shot through traffic at 10:14 restored the Preds two-goal lead and stood up as the game-winner.
“We talked about it as a group (slow starts) and we talked about it after the game and it’s about individuals being prepared to demand more from themselves and from their teammates and be ready to go. It’s preparation,” said head coach Jim Playfair.