The Calgary Flames six road game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Friday night when they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1.
"We saw a team come out and play with desperation," said head coach Mike Keenan.
"We weren't as ready as we should be in this back-to-back game."
The embattled Curtis McElhhiney got the call for the contest. It was McElhinney's sixth start this season.
In two seasons in the NHL his record sits at 0-7-1.
The score is misleading - most will see the number of goals and think McElhinney had a tough night but he played very well. He made several big saves and stopped 27 shots sent at him. Due to a lack of help from his teammates, the young netminder had no chance on the majority of the goals that were scored.
There was speculation before the trade deadline that the Flames were looking for a veteran backup for Miikka Kiprusoff. Now that the deadline has passed and McElhinney doesn't need to worry about being usurped, he looked a lot more confident and relaxed in first half of the intial period.
He made a great save within the first minute of the game when he stopped Eric Staal on the doorstep. Newly acquired Erik Cole snapped a pass to the eldest Staal and the forward aimed to beat McElhinney top right corner but the London product got his shoulder on it.
He then made an absolutely brilliant save on veteran Rod Brind'Amour. The Carolina captain had a wide open net and was unmarked as he skated in but McElhinney dove across the net and caught the puck.
"Unfortunately, he's had a lot of 'One of those games,'" said Jarome Iginla. "He made a great save off the start and it could have been a game-breaker save, but unfortunately we didn't respond."
Carolina came on strong at around the 15:00 mark.
The Hurricanes struck and they struck fast. They scored three goals in a span of 3:31, including a power play marker. The fault of those three goals didn't rest soley on McElhinney's shoulders. The Flames defense seemed disorientented during that 3:31, not giving their goalie much support.
The Flames offence wasn't helping McElhinney either. At the end of the first stanza, they only had seven shots on target.
McElhinney's job got even tougher in the second period when the Flames took two penalties within a minute. The 5-on-3 opportunity yielded a goal for the Hurricanes with Ray Whitney scoring his second of the night.
Scott Walker slid the Hurricanes fifth goal in after a defensive turnover on the side boards. Walker's shot went right over McElhinney's shoulder. McElhinney looked skyward after the goal and his disappointment was more than evident.
Despite giving up five goals in the first 40 minutes, Keenan let McElhinney see the game through and was sharp right off the bat in the third period. Anton Babchuk quick wrister required McElhinney to make a difficult save.
Calgary's penalty kill showed more holes on the Hurricanes sixth power play of the night. Whitney scored his third of the night while Eric Nystrom was in the sin bin for instigating. It was Whitney's 300th career goal.
At the end of the disappointing game, McElhinney faced 33 shots.
"We all feel responsible and it's hard to accept for him," Iginla told the media after the game.
The last active member of the Flames 1989 Stanley Cup winning team, Gary Roberts, is expected to announce his retirement after being put on waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 23 NHL seasons, Roberts played in 1,224 regular season games, 130 playoff games, scored 438 regulation goals and 910 regulation points. He played 11 seasons with Calgary.
Eric Nystrom stood up for teammate Warren Peters after the recent call-up was hit hard, with a bit of an elbow, by Dennis Seidenberg. Nystrom was the definite winner in the tussle, landing numerous shots on Seidenberg before dropping him to the ice. Nystrom picked up an extra two minutes for instigating the fight.
Iginla got involved in the hostility when he and Staal got into a shoving match in front of Cam Ward. Tim Gleason then came in and hit the captain in the face. Gleason got the gate, giving the Flames their first power play of the game. After that, Iggy was booed by the Raleigh crowd every time he touched the puck.