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Flames unable to find their footing in tilt against Canucks

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

Burn it. Flush it. Bury it. 

Expunge it from memory.

"They get an early powerplay goal. Not the end of the world,'' sighed Matthew Tkachuk, following the Flames' 5-2 Monday loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks. "They get another one, then I take a penalty and they make it 3-0.

"When it's 3-0 halfway through the first period, it's tough.

"I thought the first period we got dominated - the whole period. We looked like the team that was playing on the back-to-back."


Video: "I thought the first period we got dominated"

Arriving early in the a.m., following a 3-2 victory over the LA Kings at home Saturday night, the surging Canucks parlayed a tone-setting first period into a win that pole-vaulted them, for the moment at least, overtop of the Flames in an increasingly claustrophobic Pacific Division.

Perplexing, considering Calgary was riding the momentum of arguably its most comprehensive, stem-to-stern performance of the season, 5-1 up north in Edmonton on Friday night, and the Canucks were in a back-to-back.

"For whatever reason, they were more prepared to start than we were,'' acknowledged Calgary interim coach Geoff Ward. "We knew they were a good first-period team. They have been all year.

"We just didn't come out with the start we needed.

"I thought we got out-worked early. I thought we got out-executed early. Then we found ourselves in a hole so we had to start chasing the game."

Flames' starting goalie David Rittich played eight minutes and 38 seconds, surrendering three goals on seven Canucks' shots. 

The first of those, from skyscraper-sized D-man Tyler Myers, at 3:29, arrived through traffic. The second, also via Myers, wriggled through Rittich's wickets. The third, at 10:52 and credited to former Calgary Hitmen star Jake Virtanen, actually glanced behind Rittich off the stick-blade of Flames' defenceman Travis Hamonic.

"I was mad,'' admitted Rittich. "Not at my teammates. At myself. I let in three goals.

"There's not much else to say.

"(The second one) wasn't frustrating. Just a mistake. If a goalie makes a mistake, everyone sees it. A bad goal, I know.

"It set the tone for the rest of the game, I'd say.

"I didn't see the first one and the third one was tipped by my player."


Video: "Three nothing, hard. Not much I can say"


Ward then put Cam Talbot in an attempt to shake up his squad.

"I just felt at the time, I thought it might spark the team a little bit," explained Ward. "(Rittich) didn't see the first one. The second one went through him. And then (after) the shot off the post, I started thinking we might need to do something here.

"They got the third one quickly after that and I just felt we needed something different at that point, so we made the decision to pull.

"Cam played real well for us. We had some real good chances, good looks, to make that game tighter earlier. We just didn't hit the net.

"We had four looks that we just blew the puck right by the net on some Grade A chances. We had some opportunities to claw our way back in. Unfortunately, we didn't make it happen."


Video: "We need to make the goalie make saves."


At the opposite end, after being inundated with 51 shots against the Kings, Vancouver's No.-1 puck-repeller Jacob Markstrom was giving the night off in favour of back-up Thatcher Demko.

Making his first appearance since Dec. 7, Demko was guilty only of spitting out a fat, ultra-juicy rebound that Rasmus Andersson pounced on to backhand home, and an awkward attempt at a save by the post that eventually wound up behind him in the final minute.

By then the outcome had already been decided.

"We needed that push early in the third period and we didn't get it,'' confessed Ward. "The rest of the period just kinda played out. We started pressing, pucks were going all over the place and our puck control was falling apart.

"There were just a lot of things that started rolling downhill on us and as a result we ended up on the short end of the game."

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