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Power play woes haunt Flames in loss to 'Canes

Flames fail to convert on six power play opportunites against Hurricanes on Thursday

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- A telltale drop of red hung tenaciously in the corner of the left eye. A bluish-yellow tinge covered the eyelid.

"On the outside, thankfully,'' sighed captain Mark Giordano. "Nothing to worry about."

Physically, no.

Tactically, technically, yes.

A moribund power play is sucking the blood, siphoning the gas, stripping momentum, out of the Calgary Flames right now.

"When the looks are there, we've got to take them,'' said Giordano. "But at the same time, an outside shot that gets blocked is a bad play.

"So we have to when to shoot and when not to.

"It's instinct. You've got to trust your instincts on the power play. The guys who are out there are out there for a reason.

"Our power play is costing us valuable points. We've got to bear down and find a way. It's not good enough 'Oh, we got good looks.'

"That's not good enough. We've got to start scoring goals."

An 0-for-6 night holding a man to the good, failure to convert at those fish-or-cut-bait moments that either lift or deflate a team, can be easily pinpointed as the main culprit in a 4-2 loss Thursday to the Carolina Hurricanes at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

One-for-24 over five games.

 Zero for 18 on home ice.

Video: Giordano comments following a 4-2 loss to Carolina

"It took a lot of life out of us,'' acknowledged coach Glen Gulutzan. "A couple of times our power play had chances to bail us out, especially late ones, and didn't get anything.

"So it took a lot of life out of us.

"I think our confidence is (being) lost on our power play. To me, that's the focal point of getting a little mojo; getting some run support for our goalie.

"I just don't think we're shooting the puck enough and winning battles. They're probably the best in the league at denying the zone. They're highly organized at the blueline.

"We started to dump it in on the later power plays, which a lot of teams do, you need to win those wall battles.

"We did that I think on the fourth or fifth power play a little bit but on the others, we were losing puck battles, they were breaking out on us and we weren't supporting.

"We were a little bit one and done. And I think that's the biggest breakdown."

A powerplay strike here or there would certainly help lift flagging spirits.

"We're not simplifying, getting the puck to the net enough and people to the net enough,'' grumbled Giordano.

"It's easy to say but when you're struggling like this a lot of it comes down to battles and finding ways to get an ugly one."

The began early. Only eight minutes in, with the Canes already on the board via Teuvo Teravianen, winger Lee Stempniak inadvertently scythed his stick upwards, clipping Giordano around that eye and cutting the Calgary captain.

Result: Four minutes of quiet time for the ex-Flame.

Yet Calgary's power play could only generate two shots, neither of the dangerous variety.

Another chance only 11 seconds after Stempniak had vacated the hoosegow: Carolina defenceman Klaus Dahlbeck found himself tagged for high-sticking Matthew Tkachuk as the muck-racking freshman rooted around inside the blue paint.

Again, though, the opening came to nothing cut short by a Lance Bouma hooking minor only three seconds from the expiration of the Dahlbeck minor. 

Video: Sean Monahan talks after the 4-2 loss to the 'Canes

Compounding the misery, in short order, Alex Chiasson followed Bouma into the box for a slash. And the Canes made their power play count, Victor Rask zipping home his third of the young season for a 2-0 lead just as the first penalty of the 5-on-3 had expired.

From an opportunity for Calgary to at least equalize to two goals down.

Just like that.

"I don't know what it is,'' admitted a mystified Sean Monahan. "We've got to be more desperate, more hungry on the powerplay.

"We're losing battles on the wall. That's hurting us. We're trying to do it as a group.

"I can't really pinpoint. It always seems we're not in the same key. We've got to be there. We've got to be in the crease.

"When pucks are thrown on the net it's those little one-on-one battles you've got to win. You've got to score those dirty goals."

Trailing 3-0, the Flames found life, Troy Brouwer snapping a shot short-side on goaltender Eddie Lack at 18:07 of the second.

When Johnny Gaudreau notched his first of the season eight minutes into the third, skedaddling around Canes' D-man Justin Faulk to cut across the face of goal and deposit the puck into the net far side, the 'Dome was finally jumping.

But that would be as close as the Flames could claw back.

"We're working hard,'' said Monahan, "but we've got to get on the same page here."

"It's really frustrating,'' chimed in Giordano, "but you've got to use that as motivation.

"You've got to learn to park it. Quickly. And move on. We got down three there, and made a strong push and again little errors are costing us.

"I mean, emotion's not a bad thing sometimes. We've just got to use it in a positive way.

"Some of the goals we're giving up are way too easy and they're costing us games."

In lurching out of the gate 0-3-1 after vowing to have learned from last season's stuttering start, the Flames have found themselves too often in arrears, playing from behind, having to make up ground.

"When you're constantly doing that,'' quietly lectured Giordano, "you're playing with fire.

"You can't be chasing all the time.

"Teams are too good, too structured, too tough to break down to always be playing from behind.

"We made the push tonight, yeah. And that shows we don't give up. And that's great. But we've got to make that push when the game's 0-0.

"We're leaving it too late.

"We've got to start getting out in front and making other teams play catch-up."

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