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Flames fire 35 shots, but can't solve Kuemper in 3-0 loss to Coyotes

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Nothin' comes easy against these guys.

In their first meeting less than two weeks ago, the Flames tackled a similar script.

Down two with less than five minutes to go, they rallied to force overtime and won the game, 4-3, thanks to Matthew Tkachuk's heroic, two-goal effort.

Down two on Saturday in the desert, a much different story.


Video: Brendan Parker recaps a 3-0 loss to the Coyotes


The Flames were unable to get the offensive motor churning on all cylinders, as the Arizona Coyotes took a 3-0 decision at Gila River Arena.

David Rittich made 22 saves in a losing effort.

With the loss, the Flames' record falls to 10-9-3 on the year.

Neither team had much in the way of shots or quality looks in the opening 20 minutes, but Calgary's No. 1 puck-stopper was excellent when was called upon.

2015 first-round pick Lawson Crouse helped engineer the best chance of the period, using his long reach to protect the puck, beat a sliding defender and feed Carl Soderberg on a 2-on-1 midway through. Rittich, though, didn't bite, anticipating the pass and challenging the shooter with a strong push to his left, resulting in a phenomenal pad save to keep the game goalless.

The Coyotes had a couple of chances to build on that with back-to-back powerplays immediately after, but Rittich and the Flames held serve.

Shots on goal favoured the visitors 11-8 after one.

The Coyotes opened the scoring at 6:35 of the second period, when Rittich - trying to clear it himself with a long, lead feed over the head of the forecheckers - had his aerial picked off by a hard-charging Derek Stepan, who quickly settled the puck and his feet and whipped it into the yawning cage.

Then, after having that earlier look turned aside by Rittich, Crouse and Soderberg hooked up for good this time, as the homeside opened up a two-goal lead less than two minutes later.

This time, Crouse delivered the pass on his backhand and Soderberg made no mistake, cruising the middle and making a sweet move on the forehand to bury his first in five games.

The Flames pushed back late in the frame and nearly halved the Arizona lead off a great effort by Milan Lucic. The big man beat out an icing call and made an incredible centering feed to Matthew Tkachuk, but Darcy Kuemper came out to the top of the blue paint and made a
strong positional save.

Then, things got a bit testy…

On a delayed cross-checking penalty to Johnny Gaudreau, a scrum broke out when Gaudreau, Tkachuk and Kuemper (yes, Kuemper!) traded barbs in front of the net. The lid immediately popped off and within seconds, everyone had a dance partner.

Even Rittich (yes, Rittich!) entered the fray, racing 200 feet to challenge Kuemper, who had his mask ripped off and was already dusting it up with Tkachuk in the corner.


Tweet from @SammyHudes: HERE COMES RITTICH


It was an old-fashion brouhaha that certainly got the blood boiling on both benches.

The penalties broke down as follows:

  • Tkachuk (roughing - double-minor), Gaudreau (cross-checking) and Rittich (leaving the crease).

And to the Coyotes…

  • Kuemper (roughing - double-minor) and Jason Demers (roughing).

What a way to end the period!

Unfortunately for the visitors, they still had a mountain to climb.

The Flames pushed back, out-shooting the Coyotes 12-6 in the third, but Kuemper turned them all aside to record his 18th career shutout.

Crouse hit the empty net from 190 feet with 6.6 seconds left to ice a 3-0 final.


Tweet from @NHLFlames: Today's infographic from the desert. More stats: | #Flames 



Head Coach Bill Peters on rallying around the Gaudreau scuffle:

"I thought we pushed. But I don't think we have to wait to get that emotion started. I think that should be there at the onset of the game, and that way we wouldn't be playing from behind as much as we are right now."

Peters on playing from behind:

"It's not a recipe for success."

Gaudreau on the second-period melee:

"I was in the corner, passed it up top, tried to get to the front of the net and (Demers) interfered with me, so I gave him a cross-check back. Then everything went crazy there for a second. It was a little intensity from our team; good to see the guys into the game, engaged. Unfortunately we've got a penalty out of that, but the PK was huge for us tonight."

Gaudreau on strong third period:

"We've done that (playing from behind) a lot this year. Unfortunately. Managed to get a couple wins coming back throughout the season so far, but that's no recipe for success. We've got to change it. We've got to figure that out."

Rittich on Arizona's first goal:

"I have to figure out what I did. It can't happen in that moment. ...Everyone tried to support me. It's a game, and in this game, it's about mistakes. I did the worst one that I could and... it cost us the game."

Rittich on how the game played out:

"I think we knocked on the door, but we weren't lucky today. We weren't in front of the net too much and (Kuemper) saw a lot of pucks. He played well, but we made it easier for him."

Tkachuk on having better starts:

"We were probably better in the third and had more chances, but, again, we're down two goals, so that's when the easy hockey games into play - when the other team is kind of sitting back and protecting a lead. That's when we've started to play the past... however many weeks. We've got to get out of that. We've got to be ready from the start. Maybe there was a little bit of a lull there in the second, but it was a tight game. That's kind of a playoff style. They're tight games there aren't going to be many chances either way. They capitalized on theirs and we didn't."


Video: "When you're behind in this league, it's tough."



Elias Lindholm - a staple on the Flames' top penalty-killing unit - took a Jakob Chychrun slapshot off the right foot and looked to be in some discomfort, missing the final 10 minutes of the second period. However, the versatile forward did return for the third. … Flames leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk was born in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., back on Dec. 11, 1997 - the same year his father, Keith, led the Phoenix Coyotes with 40 goals and 66 points in 69 games.



Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start Saturday's game (starters in bold):


Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Andrew Mangiapane - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett
Milan Lucic - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder


Mark Giordano - Rasmus Andersson
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Michael Stone


David Rittich


The Flames are back at it tomorrow night when they close out this quick, two-game trip with a stop in Sin City to face the Pacific rival Golden Knights. The club returns home to throw some clothes in the wash host the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday (click here for tickets), before hitting the road once again, beginning on Thursday against the defending the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. Stops in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Buffalo follow to close out the month of November.

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