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Flames lament what could have been in loss to Wild

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Charity, it's often said, begins at home.

That careworn idiom has no practical application in the National Hockey League, though.

At home, you're required to be ruthless, 

"We had the lead there and let it slip,'' said Flames centre Sean Monahan. "It's on us as players. You turn the puck over and it's gonna cost you. It showed tonight.

"We should've kept the lead at 2-1. That was a big powerplay goal in the third (that) put us ahead. And we let it go. That's on us.

"In this league, you can't lose two in a row like that. Especially at home.

"We've gotta be a lot better than that."

A 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday drops on the heels of a narrow 2-1 setback at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes and leaves the Flames at 4-4 on the season and only 1-3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

That inconsistency on home ice, they fully understand, has to change.

"You want to win at home,'' sighed goaltender Mike Smith. "You want to put on a show for your fans. They come out and support us.

"We want to be hard to play against in our own rink … but we did a lot of good things tonight. Their goalie (Alex Stalock) made some big saves for them. Played really well.

"A couple posts there and it's a different game."

Video: Gulutzan on his team's performance against Minnesota

A 5-on-3 snipe from Kris Versteeg, sliding out from the side of the net to convert his own rebound, had propelled the Flames into the lead just 43 seconds into the third period.

The Wild, fresh off a game 24 hours earlier in Winnipeg, should've been the team to sag at that point. Things appeared rosy for the Flames.

And then …

Two even-strength poison-darts in a 1:35 span - 10:33 and 12:08 - from Minny defencemen, first Ryan Suter followed by Jared Spurgeon, turned the game on its head.

"It was,'' lamented Versteeg, "pretty much a puck-management thing. In tight games, teams like that really thrive off turnovers.

"At the start of the season, those are things we can clean up."

Suter uncorked a rising blast, using backtracking Flames' defenceman Travis Hamonic to shield Smith, shocking the Saddledome crowd and drawing the Wild back on level terms.

Sensing the seismic shift in momentum, Spurgeon wired a slapshot that exploded through a ridiculously small window between Smith's body and the near post.

From 2-1 to 3-2. In no time at all.

"First one was tough,'' said Smith. "Made a good shot. Used Hammer as a screen.

"(Next) one's gotta be stopped. Plain and simple. Gotta be stopped. Especially in close games, you've gotta make those saves.

"Tonight it didn't happen. And we lost because of it."

Despite the disappointing outcome, coach Glen Gulutzan found plenty of good in his side's performance.

"I thought all-in-all, this is probably the best game we've played all season,'' he said in summation. "We didn't get a result but I liked our focus, our discipline, the way we played.

"I've said to you guys, quite a bit, the league is unforgiving. It'll put you in your place and 4-4 is probably our record.

"Tonight I thought we deserved a better fate. We came out with energy, we played fast. Probably could've executed a little bit better.

"So we have to take it as a step. But our record is how we've played.

"In the third, I thought we were under pretty good control. They made two good shots. Really good shots.

"That happens."

A superb bit of hand-eye co-ordination by the Wild's Chris Stewart, chopping the rebound of his own sharp-angle shot out the air, short-side to beat Smith, broke a scoreless tie at 4:49 of the second period.

Undeterred at being behind despite a heavy shot advantage, Calgary responded at 19:28, Troy Brouwer stepped in on a napping Suter along the wall, swiped the puck and centred for Sean Monahan to even things at a goal apiece.

Monahan has been among the most consistent of Flames, sniping five times in eight starts.

"I thought Monny was good tonight,'' praised Gulutzan. "I thought he was good in both ends, hunting down pucks. The thing he does as good as anyone I've seen: He finds space. He knows how to get open.

"It's a real skill. Just like speed is a skill or a big heavy shot. The ability to get into space and become available in great scoring areas.

"He does it as good as anyone and he's got a great release. Those two things make him a pretty special player."


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