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Flames break goalscoring drought but continue struggle to bulge twine in loss to visiting Avalanche

by TY PILSON @typilson /

Scoring goals is the toughest thing to do in hockey.

Especially at the NHL level.

When things are going your way, everything seems to go in.

When things aren't going your way, well ... 

The Flames continued to struggle when it comes to lighting the lamp, falling 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche last night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.


Video: Brendan Parker wraps up tonight's tilt


But it certainly wasn't for a lack of effort - or chances.

The Flames continued to create opportunities, they just couldn't finish enough of them, as has been the case in recent outings.

In the end, they outshot the Avs 33-26.

Coming into the tilt, they had been shut out in back-to-back games: 3-0 to the Coyotes on Saturday and 6-0 to the Golden Knights on Sunday.

In the loss to Arizona, they outshot the homeside 37-24 and against Vegas, they fired 34 pucks on net.

Derek Ryan broke the lengthy goal drought in the second period with a great play born from the hard work of linemate Milan Lucic.

It took 92 shots to finally find paydirt during the drought.

Along with Dillon Dube, they were the standout trio for Calgary in the defeat, battling hard and making things happen in the offensive zone all night.

Andrew Mangiapane had the other Calgary tally while workhorse David Rittich made 23 saves.

Calgary-kid Cale Makar started the play that led to Colorado's first goal of the game 3:21 in, getting to a loose puck in the high slot in Colorado's zone just before Elias Lindholm.

One of the early favourites for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, the young blueliner picked up the puck and hit the jets, getting it quickly ahead to Nathan MacKinnon, who slid a backhand pass to Andre Burakovsky who snapped it home shortside past Rittich with very little room to work with. 

It was Colorado's first shot of the night. 

It was Makar's 18th dime of the season. He came into the tilt second in Avs team scoring with 22 points (seven behind MacKinnon), most recently chipping in four assists in Colorado's 5-4 overtime win against the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday.  

Philipp Grubauer made a glove save on a solid chance from Matthew Tkachuk just past the three-quarter pole of the frame, Mangiapane pulled down on the play by J.T. Compher who was sent off for interference.

On the ensuing powerplay, the Flames threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Colorado net, Grubauer stopping two doorstep tip attempts by Tkachuk, then getting across to rob Ryan who took a pass from Mikael Backlund as he split the D, going forehand-backhand-forehand but denied.

The Flames led 12-3 in shots with just over two minutes left.

But Burakovsky scored his second on Colorado's sixth shot of the frame with 1:35 left in the first, wiring one from out near the edge of the left faceoff circle on another tough angle at the other side of the cage, again putting it shortside.  

The Avalanche came out in the second and applied some pressure, peppering Rittich on a powerplay with Mark Giordano in the bin for tripping MacKinnon.

The best chances came courtesy of Valeri Nichushkin, who took a pass to Rittich's left and spun out front gettting a pair of shots off, then former Leaf Nazim Kadri getting another whack at the rebound, the Calgary 'tender on his butt and able to squeeze his legs closed and finally trap it.

Colorado led 15-14 in shots after the advantage.

Vladislav Kamenev finished off a quick three-way passing play at the 13:15 mark to make it 3-0, keeping his stick on the ice to redirect a cross-ice pass from Compher, with Nichushkin getting the other helper. 

Then came the Ryan tally.

About a minute before the goal, Milan Lucic tipped a Giordano point shot and then got four more whacks at it as Grubauer kept snapping his left pad out as the two circled towards the far post.

Lucic kept up the hard work on the shift, winning a battle on the boards for the puck and feeding it out to Ryan, who turned and took a few strides before snapping a perfectly-place laser far-side over Grubauer's left shoulder.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: 🎶 Doctor Doctor, gimme the news 🎶#COLvsCGY | #Flames


The third period followed a similar script. Lots of chances, no luck.

Then, with 4:16 left to play, an Oliver Kylington point shot hit Mangiapane right in the midsection as he battled with an Avs defender with his back to the net some 15-feet out from the cage, No. 88 backhanding the puck after it fell and hit the ice far-side past Grubauer.

Sean Monahan got the other assist. 


Video: COL@CGY: Mangiapane scores on backhand from slot


With around 1:30 left to play, Rittich left the net for the extra attacker. The Flames got a few cracks at it and with 27.6 seconds left, the ref threw his hand up after Ian Cole highsticked Tkachuk in the face.

A made scramble failed to put the puck in and with 20.6 seconds, they went 6-on-4 but were uanble to pot the equalizer.


Video: "There's adversity for sure"



Lucic on playing from behind:

"Again, we can't seem to find that first goal and (are) playing from behind, catch-up hockey. But in saying all that, there are a lot of positives that you can take out of this game and carry over into a very important road trip these next four games. The effort's there. We started to push and play the way that we're supposed to play the second half of the game. Just have to fine-tune some things and bear down when we get our chances and try to play with the lead."

Lucic on his line with Ryan and Dube:

"I think the last two games we've managed to find some immediate chemistry between the three of us. Just have to stick with it and the results will come. Especially for myself, it's easy to get frustrated at this point. You just have to keep playing, keep being hard on the puck, keep making plays and it's just a matter of time before they start going in for you."


Video: "Effort's there ... just fine tune some things"


Ryan on comeback effort:

"It's pretty hard not to get frustrated. ... Before the game, there's a lot of energy in the dressing room, a lot of energy on the bench, we give up a couple goals and all of a sudden the body language kind of goes down a bit. Guys are frustrated, down on themselves, down on each other. Even through that, I thought we stuck to it, played our game, created chances, and we saw it there in the third. I thought we kind of turned it up a bit. We just have to figure out a way to start getting some leads in the first period, stop chasing the game and score some more goals."

Ryan on fighting through adversity:

"That's all we can right now is try to use it as a building block ... so that we come out the other side as a tighter group, having gone through some adversity. I think last regular season we maybe didn't go through enough adversity, so maybe you can talk about that this is a good adversity point for us to build on, it's not going to come easy, expectations for us are higher this year, and we have that in the dressing room as well."


Video: "We gotta start scoring first goal in game"


Tkachuk on importance of righting the ship quick:

"In the third, I thought we played better, played in their end. But, again, teams do that when they're protecting leads. They're not cheating for offence or anything like that. It's kind of a sit-back, protect-the-lead mentality. It's hard to play against, kind of exhausting, but that's why you have to play with a lead. ...We've got to change that, because this is a very, very, very important road trip for us and we want to play better on the road. We're playing some good teams. But we're a good team, too, so we've got to believe that."


Video: "It's hard when you play from behind all the time"


Bill Peters on effect of new line combos:

"It doesn't matter, the combinations. You've got to do what you do, whoever you are. If you're a penalty-killer, shot-blocker, you've got to show up on the (score) sheet. I see some guys right across the board, it's full here - that means you're involved in the game, right?"

Peters on upcoming road trip:

"We've got to come out of this quick. We're going on the road for four in four tough buildings. We can't be moping around waiting."



There was some lineup juggling for last night's tilt. Forward Zac Rinaldo and defenceman Brandon Davidson both made their Flames debuts in the game. Up front, Sam Bennett (upper body, week-to-week) and Alan Quine sat out, while Travis Hamonic was also sidelined with a lower-body injury ... The Flames have a record of 5-8-3 against Western Conference opponents, and a record of 2-3-2 against the Central Division ... CFL Commish Randy Ambrosie joined Flames TV's Brendan Parker for a first-intermission interview to talk about this week's Grey Cup Festival and the big game this weekend (see below). For more info on the Festival, click here.


Video: CFL Commissioner talks Grey Cup with Flames TV



Lines, D-pairings and goalie to start last night's tilt (starters in bold):


Johnny Gaudreau - Mikael Backlund - Elias Lindholm

Andrew Mangiapane - Sean Monahan - Matthew Tkachuk

Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube

Zac Rinaldo - Mark Jankowski - Michael Frolik


Mark Giordano - Rasmus Andersson

Noah Hanifin - Michael Stone

Oliver Kylington - Brandon Davidson


David Rittich



The Flames head out for a four-game roadie. First stop is St. Louis for a Thursday tilt, followed by Philadelphia (Saturday matinee), Pittsburgh (Monday), and then Buffalo (Wednesday) to round it out. The Flames next home game is Nov. 30 when they host the Ottawa Senators (click here for tickets). The Flames have seven more home games before the Christmas

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