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THAT'S THE PITTS

Flames continue to create chances and produce plenty of offensive opportunities, but fall in second straight tilt, losing 4-1 to the visiting Penguins

by TY PILSON @typilson / CalgaryFlames.com

Feast or famine. 

It's been that way of late for the Flames.

Prior to their 4-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday afternoon, they had scored an impressive 22 goals in five games as part of their seven-game winning streak.

Everything was going in. 

 

Video: Brendan Parker wraps up tonight's tilt

 

Then came James Reimer, who stood tall for Carolina, stymying the Flames at every turn. The final score certainly didn't tell the story of the game.

Tuesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, a similar script unfolded. The Flames fell 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the last two goals being empty-netters.

The Flames had tons of chances, ending up with a slight 34-33 edge in shots.

They came in waves and peppered Pens goalie Tristan Jarry.

However, outside of Johnny Gaudreau, they weren't able to solve him.

Like Reimer a few days earlier, Jarry was named the game's first star.

At the other end of the ice, Cam Talbot was sharp in the start turning aside 30 shots.

The Pens were without captain Sidney Crosby, still sidelined from sports hernia surgery.

They did however have Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup. The big Russian had missed the previous two outings due to illness.

The game was fast right out of the gate.

Speed and skill - and plenty of stand-up-out-of-your-seat chances.

A quick Matthew Tkachuk-to-Elias Lindholm-to-Andrew Mangiapane passing play led to the Flames first high-quality chance of the night, the latter just missing wide right with his shot in the slot as he tried to pick a corner. 

Johnny Gaudreau got his juke-and-jive going behind the net, before feeding a pass out to Mikael Backlund in the crease, the puck just out of his reach as he took a stab at it.

Pens defenceman Chad Ruhwedel rang one off the near post with a point-shot through traffic that beat Cam Talbot, but then clanged harmlessly into the corner.

Following the morning skate, Sam Bennett - returning to the lineup after missing 12 games with an upper body injury - said he didn't plan to ease his way back into the pool.

He planned to dive in, getting right back to his crash-and-bang style.

He did just that on an early shift, pasting Joseph Blandisi onto the boards behind the Pittsburgh net with a big hit.

Sean Monahan - who had his eight-game point scoring streak snapped in the loss to the Hurricanes - then had his hands in two cracks at opening the scoring on the same shift.

First he gained the zone and pulled up on the high boards just inside the blueline, feeding a trailing Milan Lucic who skated in alone but was denied by Jarry.

Monents later, Lucic returned the favour with a nifty feed to Monahan, but Jarry again was up to the challenge.

Gaudreau opened the scoring - fittingly - by finishing off a pretty three-way passing play he started.

He gained the zone at full stride on a rush, dropping the puck to back Backlund who went over to Tobias Rieder, who then passed back cross-ice to Johnny Hockey at the left side of the net where he banged it home in tight for his 10th of the season. It was his third goal in three games, having potted a pair against the Leafs on Dec. 12.

For the second straight outing, the Flames dominated first-period play.

Against Carolina, they outshot them 12-4.

Against the Pens: 17-6.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: Backs ������ Tobi ������ Johnny = 🚨#PITvsCGY | #Flames pic.twitter.com/5F8g7ks7DN

 

Five seconds after a Pittsburgh powerplay expired past the midway point in the second period, John Marino's point shot through traffic beat Talbot at 12:13 to tie it up.

Just 1:12 later, Bryan Rust skated behind the Flames net and walked out untouched on the other side, snapping it shortside for the first lead of the game for the visitors. 

The Flames got their legs back under them quickly, a turnover in the Pittsburgh zone leading to Michael Frolik finding Mark Giordano for a shot, but he was denied.

Then Dillon Dube forced a turnover right at the Flames blueline, which led to a 2-on-0 with Milan Lucic, Dube passing to Lucic, then back to Dube, then back to Lucic, but Jarry sliding across the crease to make a stop with his left pad to the crowd's disbelief.

The third period was also a busy one. 

The Flames didn't let up.

They pushed the pedal down.

Matthew Tkachuk got a crack at a loose puck on the doorstep off a rebound, but couldn't get it by Jarry.

The Flames then got a powerplay but nothin' doin'.

Then there was a deft tip by Ryan on a Hanifin point shot that hit Jarry.

Later, Gaudreau set up Monahan with a pass in behind the defenceman but his shot went wide.

 

THEY SAID IT:

SEAN MONAHAN ON TOUGH LOSS:

"It was a frustrating game. We came out flying in the first and I thought we played a great period. We sat back a little bit in the second, turned some pucks over, and obviously took a few penalties and they capitalized. … We had a lot of looks, we've been getting a lot of looks lately. At this time of year and where we want to be, you've got to bury those. We've got to find ways to score and we need to be better."

CAM TALBOT ON 29-SAVE EFFORT:

"I thought I played a pretty strong game. I really wanted that game back. I thought I made some big saves at some key moments in the game, especially in the third to give us a chance to pull the goalie, but it just wasn't meant to be tonight."

TALBOT ON WHEN THE GAME TURNED:

"In the second, once they capitalized right at the end of that first powerplay. Then, on the very next shift, they used that momentum, kind of buried us in our zone and we couldn't get off. They capitalized on us when we were a little tired, running around in our own end. Sometimes you need a save there and that one went right through me - six-hole. I just couldn't squeeze it enough."

GEOFF WARD ON GENERATING OFFENCE:

"We had a lot of chances. It would have been nice to bury a couple of them. When that happens, you've just got to stick with it - stick with the process. They came back on us in the second. They found a way to get the lead, and then we were playing from behind again. We generated 43 scoring chances the last two hockey games, so we're generating enough offensively. But the thing you have to remember in this game, it's not what you make all the time. It's what you leave. And we left a little bit out there that they were able to take advantage of and cash."

 

READ MORE IN SAY WHAT - 'WE LEFT A LITTLE BIT OUT THERE'

 

ONE-TIMERS

Calgary-born-and-raised pitcher Mike Soroka - currently starring for the Atlanta Braves - was in the crowd for the game Tuesday. He got a standing ovation when he was announced and shown on the Jumbotron. Earlier in the day, he met with Flames players and coaches in the dressing room after the morning skate, including defenceman Michael Stone and interim coach Geoff Ward, both huge Braves fans. Ward got a hat signed, and Stone gave Soroka one of his jerseys, which he wore at the game. Check out his first intermission interview with Flames TV's Brendan Parker below ... The Flames now have a record of 9-5-1 against Eastern Conference opponents, and are 4-5-1 against the Metropolitan Division.

 

Video: Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Soroka on Flames TV Live

 

THE LINEUP:

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: Hot diggity dog! Your starters vs. the 🐧#PITvsCGY | #Flames | @Schneiders pic.twitter.com/HT1M3xaOjO

 

The trios and d-pairings to start Tuesday night's game:
 

FORWARDS:

Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Andrew Mangiapane

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Mikael Backlund

Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube

Sam Bennett - Tobias Rieder - Michael Frolik

 

DEFENCE:

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic

Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson
 

GOALTENDER:

Cam Talbot

 

UP NEXT:

The Canadiens are in town Thursday for a 7 p.m. tilt (click here for tickets). Then it's off for a quick back-to-back road trip with stops in Dallas on Dec. 22 and Minnesota on Dec. 23, before the Christmas break.

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