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Gulutzan expresses his frustration with team's penchant for penalties

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Standing in the dock, Matthew Tkachuk wasn't going to make it easy on himself.

No plea-bargaining here.

No throwing himself on the mercy of the court.

"I take full responsibility for tonight,'' confessed the second-year left-winger, manning up. "It was uncalled for at the end of the period.

"It was stupid.

"Stuff like that, whether you think it's a penalty or not, you can't put yourself in that position.

"You can't put the game on the refs. We took too many penalties, again. Ultimately, we've gotta change that around.

"Mine, personally, cost us the game."

Tkachuk makes his living, has forged an identity, straddling that precarious tightrope fashioned from abrasiveness, of course. So to heap the entire weight of the evening's disappointment on his young shoulders would be unfair.

But his entirely unnecessary roughing minor at the second-period buzzer did cost the Flames, dearly, Thursday night, transforming a hole into a crater.

A late, late surge drew them closer, it's true, at least cosmetically, but the end result was still a disquieting 2-1 loss to the lickety-split Carolina Hurricanes at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The Flames hadn't played since Saturday night in Vancouver. Four non-game days for creatures of habit, accustomed to working on an every-48-hours competitive clock, must seem an eternity.

So, understandably, coach Glen Gulutzan's crew seemed a beat behind the orchestra; some spare change short of the asking price, off the hop.

But that's the reality of the schedule. And fatally, they couldn't shake off the lethargy until it was too late.

"It looked like we had no jump from the start,'' admitted centre Sean Monahan, whose fourth goal of the early going, at 16:32 of the third period, fired visions of an improbably comeback.

"We created no momentum for ourselves. It looked like we had no energy."

Too little flow. Too little cohesion. Too little push-back.

And too, too many two-minute indiscretions. A familiar lament through seven starts.

"I thought they did a way better job winning little battles and supporting the puck,'' critiqued Calgary captain Mark Giordano.

"We came on obviously at the end there. But when you're down 2-0 you're taking every risk and jumping in.

"We've gotta learn how to support each other better and make better plays. I thought there were way too maybe points in the game where they were the better team, they out-battled us, turned the puck over on us.

"We've to start cracking down in our own zone, start playing in 5s, playing tighter, coming out with more pucks. Then we'll take less penalties."

In the end, the PK and goaltender Mike Smith have been heroic but they can't be counted on to bail out the every night.

"Penalties happen in a game,'' said Monahan. "It's an emotional game. But when you take that many it's going to cost you. We've gotta clean that up."

The Flames were tagged for six more minors Thursday bringing their seasonal total to an indigestible 35.

"We're not going to be in sync until we start being more disciplined,'' offered Gulutzan. "We just didn't execute. They're a quick team so now you've got to execute quicker. We looked slow at times tonight.

"I thought we were nonchalant in some of our breakouts.

"Not until late in the third did we really try to start to move the puck . We need to play that game a little bit earlier."

In truth, Carolina always seemed on top, the Flames the team chasing.

The lone damage of the opening 40 minutes arrived at 4:48 of the second, 'Canes' centreman Jeff Skinner opportunistically retrieving the puck from the boards and taking two purposeful strides before uncorking an absolute howitzer over Smith's glove.

The unending litany of penalty woes finally caught up with the Flames at 1:09 of the second, on Tkachuk's roughing minor, Calgary's fifth of the night, Justin Williams roofing a cross-ice pass to double the advantage.

"I don't think (Tkachuk) should take responsibility for the loss,'' said Gulutzan when asked about the repercussion of that incident. "But he should take full responsibility for the penalty that he took at the end of the second period.

"A 1-0 game … now it's 2-0 against a good defensive team. That's a tough hill to come back from."

When required, Carolina netminder Scott Darling held strong.

Shorthanded, Flames' Mikael Backlund created a glorious chance, frisking the puck off 'Canes captain Justin Faulk at the Calgary blueline and sailing in unimpeded. Taking Darling wide, Backlund saw his backhand try turned away by the goaltender's left pad.

The Johnny-Gaudreau-Sean Monahan-Jaromir Jagr line created some buzz, a handful of opportunities and some good consistent offensive pressure.

A case of too little, too late, though.

In his post-game media availability, Gulutzan sounded like an exasperated parent at wit's end with a group of misbehaving kids.

"Moving forward, we're in the exact same situation as we were last year,'' he said flatly. "The only difference is that we're getting better goaltending and better speciality teams.

"Those are the only difference to the two starts to the seasons.

"You give everybody a fair shake coming into the season. It seems to me it's the same guys taking penalties, same types of penalties.

"Those guys are going to dress but unfortunately they're going to lose some of their prime real-estate ice time.

"We'll just clean it up with the guys that can control themselves."

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