The Calgary Flames dropped a disappointing fourth straight game on Saturday afternoon, falling to the Anaheim Ducks 2-1.
Both headed into the tilt on losing skids - Calgary had lost a season high three straight and the Ducks had dropped two.
Some Flames pointed to work ethic and playing a full 60 minutes as the reason for the loss.
"We're struggling right now and when you're on a little bit of slide like we're on you have to work extra hard to get out of it," Robyn Regehr said after the loss. "I think our habits are getting better, our game overall is getting better than it has the last couple of games. That being said, we still need a little bit of extra effort."
London, Ontario native Curtis McElhinney got his 4th start in net this season. The netminder was Calgary's 6th round, 176th overall, choice in the 2002 draft. He's started in six games in his NHL career. This is his first full season with the Flames.
"I'm certainly frustrated," said McElhinney. "I want to get these guys a win as much as they feel the need to get me one."
McElhinney played a very solid game and was applauded by this teammates for his efforts.
"He's got the toughest job in here - sitting on the bench all the time," said Adrain Aucoin. "It's brutal that we don't give him support. He's a really good goalie. It's pathetic that we don't get him a win. He does everything this team asks of him."
Regehr backed up Aucoin's view of McElhinney.
"I thought Curtis played very well. There's no reason to fault him whatsoever. He played very solid and I think he was pretty excited. It was his first home game here and he did his job."
Mike Keenan, known for his line juggling, was mixing up the troops early. The starting lineup was comprised of Craig Conroy, Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross and Jarome Iginla, Daymond Langkow and Todd Bertuzzi getting the second shift.
Bobby Ryan had an early chance when Adam Pardy coughed up the puck in front of the net. The right winger tried to go the backhand but lost control of the puck and collided with McElhinney.
Ryan atoned for his prior error by scoring the games first goal at 4:55 with a wrist shot that beat McElhinney through traffic. Andrew Ebbett picked up an assist on Ryan's 18th of the year.
The pace started to pick up around the half-way point of the first period. Both teams exchanged hits and the Flames started to fall into a groove. Mike Cammalleri made a great play to bat the puck out of the air and keep it in the zone. The ensuing cycle produced a quality scoring opportunity for Matthew Lombardi who tried to sweep the puck around Jean-Sebastien Giguere but wasn't quite quick enough.
McElhinney looked a lot more comfortable after the first five minutes had passed. He made two good, close range saves on Chris Kunitz and Scott Niedermayer to keep the Flames within one. The Ducks sent five shots at the rookie tender in the first period.
The Flames came out flying in the early minutes of the second period with a great forecheck but were unable to get any shots directly on net. The Ducks tried to come back with pressure of their own but Mike Brown took an interference call at 4:02.
The Flames power play showed more life than it has of late with Calgary registering four shots on net including a great shot by Langkow that Giguere just barely got a pad on.
Cory Sarich took the Flames first minor at 7:17 for interference. The call came when Sarich skated backwards into Ebbett and the fans didn't like it one bit. The Dome was at its loudest when the crowd booed every replay of the penalty.
The penalty kill looked much better than in past weeks and McElhinney made five saves, most coming with a lot of bodies in front of him.
Andre Roy and George Parros dropped the gloves at 12:12 and the tussle between the heavyweights didn't disappoint. Both landed hard shots and Parros got the take down. That didn't bother the fans though because one of Roy's shots was hard enough to draw blood. As Parros was shown wiping the blood off his face, the Dome erupted into cheers.
Corey Perry picked up Phaneuf's errant pass on the blueline to get a breakaway. His wrister just squeaked past McElhinney at 19:31. It was Perry's 20th goal of the season.
After the game, Phaneuf took responsibility for the mishap at the blueline.
"We weren't good enough -start to finish -starting with myself, the turnover. That can't happen early and it definitely wasn't the effort we needed."
The Perry goal also haunted McElhinney afterwards.
“I wanted to come out and make sure I kept it close and gave them a legitimate opportunity to win the game. I felt as though I did that, I made some saves but obviously it would have been nice to make that breakaway save with 28 seconds left in the second. Its tough and its something I’ll review on the tape and see if I can make any changes to my game”
The Flames caught a break right after the Ducks second tally. Rob Niedermayer was called for holding at 19:44 so Calgary started the final period with 1:45 of power play time.
Travis Moen gave McElhinney a rough ride early in the third frame when he was able to skate into the defensive zone and towards the net. Phaneuf cut him off and Moen went hard into the net, dislodging it and hitting McElhinney.
David Moss had a glorious chance at the 7:30 mark of the third when he one-timed just left of the net but his shot, which had Giguere beat, went high.
The Flames got another chance on the power play at 8:25 when Ryan was called for hooking Mark Giordano. The man advantage didn't amount to much though as the Ducks denied the Flames the chance to set up and get any decent scoring opportunities.
Cammalleri got the Flames on the board at 13:06 when he tapped him his 27th of the season. Sarich shot from the side boards and Giguere made the intial save but the rebound when right to Cammalleri who had a wipe open cage. Pardy also assisted.
The Flames intensity sky-rocketed from then on with chance after chance but misfortune struck. Bertuzzi was called for interference. The Flames bench argued the call as they felt numerous Ducks infractions should have been called during the last few minutes but the penalty stuck.
The Flames did kill off the penalty and the Ducks ended up taking a late penalty when Morrison was called for holding 19:16 but the late surge wasn't enough.
"We put the push on a little too late," said McElhinney.
Phaneuf told the media after the game that the team won't be focussing on the skid.
"Are we happy about the last four? No. Do we have to move forward? Yeah because we play in another day and a half, two days against another very good hockey team. It's disappointing but like we said before, whether you're winning or losing you've got to move forward, learn from your mistakes or from what your doing good and move forward because the schedule is that tight."