Power play goals were the story of the game Tuesday as the Calgary Flames fell 3-1 to the Dallas Stars.
Three of the four goals in the game were scored with a man advantage and James Neal's game-winner came on power play.
"I thought we started out good but they got a couple power play goals to go up and that was really the difference," said Mark Giordano.
Another big factor in the matchup was the amount of hits. While the Flames were badly outhit in the first period by a margain of 19-10, Calgary ended up outhitting Dallas 36-33.
"They came hard and we expected that," Giordano said. "It was a pretty physical game."
This is second meeting between the two clubs this season. Dallas won the first game by a score of 3-1 on Dec. 2 in Calgary.
The Flames struck first with a power play marker at 6:52 in the first frame. After Jarome Iginla laid a bone-crunching hit on Steve Ott, he swatted the puck towards the net. Todd Bertuzzi backhanded it at Marty Turco which resulted in a scramble in front of the net. Mike Cammalleri, who initially thought Bertuzzi scored, whacked it in for the game's first goal.
The goal was reviewed and while at some angles it appeared that Bertuzzi did score, it was ruled inconclusive and Cammalleri was credited with the goal. It's his 13th power play goal of the season.
"I thought he scored," said Cammaller of Bertuzzi's shot. "My hands were in the air."
The Stars were able to tie it up late in the first period while on the powerplay. Bertuzzi was penalized for interference on Ott and Jere Lehtinen capitalized. He tipped a hard shot from Matt Niskanen that snuck over Kiprusoff's left leg at 19:16.
Ott, a known pest around the league, has a broken hand and is unable to fight but his ability to draw penalties and annoy the other team hasn't been hindered by the injury.
"I can still hit and I can still talk pretty good," laughed Ott before the game.
The Stars kept it coming in the second. Giordano took a penalty for holding the stick at 2:57 and Dallas wasted no time. The Stars threw several shots on net before the pressure was too much for the Flames. Neal was able to pick up his own rebound and put it past Kiprusoff at 4:21.
"Richards threw it on net there, I got the little tip and was able to pick up the rebound," said Neal of the lone second period goal.
Shortly after the Stars go-ahead goal, Daymond Langkow was sent to the box for hooking. With Niskanen steaming in and Kiprusoff out of the net, the forward had to stall Niskanen. The hook slowed him down but he was able to skate around Kiprusoff and sent a shot at the wide open net. Thankfully for the Flames, Adam Pardy read the play perfectly and was able to get to the net just in time to stop the puck from going in.
While the Stars maintained their solid play throughout the majority of the second period, the momentum shifted in the Flames favour late in the frame. Bertuzzi lead the Flames into the offensive zone and despite being battered and thrown around, he was able to throw the puck to his teammates. The Flames cycled the puck well but time ran out on them before they could set up.
Hoping the keep the momentum in their favour, the Flames came into the third with a bit of jump. Eric Nystrom laid a particularly hard hit on Stephane Robidas at 2:41 while on the forecheck.
Ott was sent to the box at 4:32 in the third period for slashing Bertuzzi and the Flames went looking for the equalizer. They played the passing game for the majority of the man advantage and when Ott came out of the box, he gained a partial breakway. Cory Sarich came back but wasn't quick enough to make a play without taking a penalty. He was sent to the sin bin at 6:40 for hooking.
While on the penalty kill, Curtis Glencross was able to send a hard shot at Turco. The Stars goalie looked like he was anticipating the shot on the far side but Glencross sent it short side. Turco just got his blocker on it in time to prevent a Flames tying goal.
Brian Sutherby almost put the game away at 10:00 with a quick wrist shot aimed top shelf but somehow, Kiprusoff smacked it away with his glove. The quick move fooled Stars fans who were already on their feet to celebrate a goal.
Bertuzzi got caught for holding at 14:30 and the Flames went back to the penalty kill. The Stars, looking for an assurance goal, sent the puck at the net from all angles. Robidas had two great scoring chances, hitting the post once and a hard shot on the rebound.
Brad Richards put the game away right after Bertuzzi's penalty had expired with a backhand that went between the pad and glove of Kiprusoff. Richard's 13th of the season came at 16:44.
"It was a good play by Nealer and obviously a key time to score for the team," said Richards, crediting his teammate for the give-and-go work done before the goal.
Turco had a solid game, making several key saves that gave the Stars an advantage. Turco has played incredibly well against the Flames and other Canadian teams in his career. His life-time GAA against Calgary is 1.81 and has a 50-14-4 overall record against Canadian clubs.
After the game, the door was closed to media for quite awhile as the team discussed what they need to do to move forward after two straight losses.
"I know these are tough losses but we can't dwell on them," said Giordano. "We just have to get pucks deep and do all the little things right and we'll be fine."