VANCOUVER -- Urgency, Desperation. Determination.
Call it whatever you want. The Calgary Flames, knowing they need to win two out of every three games to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, have to find more of it.
As they prepare to face the top team in the National Hockey League, Northwest Division rival Vancouver on Wednesday (8 pm, Sportsnet Flames, The Fan 960) at Rogers Arena, the emphasis is on being ready to execute the game plan from the first drop of the puck. Having had their season-high four-game winning streak ended with a 5-2 loss at home Monday to the New York Islanders, the Flames feel like there was a bit of a wake-up call. A reminder that urgency in their game is mandatory.
"If we want to get to where we want to get to, we have to have urgency every game," said head coach Brent Sutter. "There can't be a lack of it."
For the first period on Monday, there was a lack of it. The Flames finished the first 20 minutes down 3-1, having allowed two power play goals while giving the dangerous youngster, John Tavares, way too much time and space.
"We were outhustled. Foolish mistakes. Penalties. We just didn't match their work ethic early so we are fighting from behind the whole way and just couldn't get that one more goal to really get momentum," noted Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Added coach Sutter: "Our urgency came halfway through the game. The first 30 minutes was missed. At the start of the game we weren't assertive enough. At the end of the day, we tried to play half a game and it didn't work for us."
On the bright side, the second half was pretty dominating, even if the Flames failed to close the gap. They outshot the Islanders 34-13 over the final two periods. And the fourth line of David Moss, Tim Jackman and Tom Kostopoulos were again a line that provided urgency, desperation and determination.
"They were the best line. Best defensively. Created the most chances," said Sutter.
"Certainly we had chances, but it was too little too late," said Moss, who scored both Flames goals. "You never want to rely having to get two goals going into the third period. If we'd been a little more desperate, had a little better special teams at the beginning, the game would have been there for us."
While different lines play different styles, there is a lesson in the way that the Moss, Jackman Kostopoulos line is playing. It is a simple game that includes pressure, defensive awareness, getting pucks to the net and getting traffic to the net. There is some proof in the pudding, too. That line has seven of the Flames 12 goals over the last four games.
On Tuesday, prior to the team departing for this one-game road trip to Vancouver, Sutter was re-instilling the style of play the Flames need to execute to be successful.
"To me it is the basics. Create speed through the neutral zone. When you reach the blueline, you play north and south, not east and west hockey," said Sutter. "When we do that as a group, we are effective."
And on Monday?
"We got away from that," said Sutter.
With Vancouver on tap Wednesday, another Western Conference powerhouse in Detroit visiting the 'Dome on Friday and then a four-game road trip through the Eastern Conference, the Flames will want to get back to what brought them a four-game winning streak.
To that end the Flames are letting Monday's loss be a reminder of the importance of being urgent.