Flames fire 38 shots, but three quick strikes by the Sharks late in the first prove to be the differenceby RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com
While the cliché-driven mantra of 'playing a full 60' is part of an athlete's everyday vernacular, that sentiment certainly rings true.
And Thursday's game between the Flames and San Jose Sharks was a painful lesson why.
Eighty-five seconds was all it took to flip this on its axis and put the visitors in command, stunning the Flames and forcing them to play catch-up.
They couldn't, despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the San Jose net.
Mark Jankowski and T.J. Brodie had goals, but former Calgary Hitmen star Martin Jones made 36 saves to help the Sharks to a 5-2 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Three goals against on consecutive shots late in that fateful opening frame proved to be the difference.
David Rittich was pulled after allowing two on six attempts. Mike Smith came on in relief, stopping 21 of 24 in the final 40 minutes and change.
"Some of those have got to in for us," said Matthew Tkachuk, lamenting the myriad of the chances the Flames had - including 14 shots on seven powerplay tries. "We've got to bear down and put those in. You can say you're getting chances and that's great, but we've got to put some of those in.
"The first period was not nearly good enough from our team, and we can be a lot better. We picked it up a little bit, but you never want to be down 3-1 after the first period at home."
The Flames opened the scoring at 4:36 of the first period, capitalizing on a stretch of expended pressure that saw them work the puck around the horn and set up a shot from the left circle. Jankowski, meanwhile, gained body position at the side of the net and got a stick on the missile from Mark Giordano, beating Jones on the short side for his ninth of the year.
Video: SJS@CGY: Jankowski tips one past Jones
But things unraveled rather quickly, and suddenly the Flames were staring down a 3-1 deficit.
First, Evander Kane took a beautiful outlet pass from Joe Thornton, stopped at the top of the right circle in a one-on-one battle with Rasmus Andersson, spun, and whipped a shot along the ice that trickled home through the five-hole.
But it was the second one that proved to be the back-breaker.
Rittich came way out of his net to cut off a loose puck and possible breakaway play near the blueline, but fumbled the clearing attempt, allowing Brent Burns to make the steal and slap it home with the goaltender scrambling back in his wake.
"It was a great read by Burns," Tkachuk reasoned. "He's a large, large man that can cover a lot of ground. If it's anyone else on their team, it won't happen. But it was a good read. I've seen Ritter make that play a bunch this year and a few have turned quick transitions into goals the other way. We're not going to tell him not to come out and play that puck."
Rittich's night came to a premature end, as coach Bill Peters turned to veteran Mike Smith the rest of the way.
"We were down two and he didn't look comfortable," Peters said. "Didn't like either goal."
However, his night got off to an discouraging start as the Sharks buried their third of the night just 23 seconds later, with Tomas Hertl supplying the tip on a Radim Simek point blast.
Three shots. Three goals.
"We were turning pucks over and that's when they create their chances, and they did that," said Sean Monahan.
"We were chasing the game from the start.
"I still think we've got a better game to show. We didn't show it tonight. It's an important road trip now and we've got to flip the camera and look forward."
In the front half of the second, the Flames were coming at the Sharks in waves and despite a flurry of chances from the prime scoring areas - including four alone on a mid-period powerplay, Jones them all out.
That critical phase proved costly, as the game settled down and began to tilt back in the visitors' favour soon after.
Kane's second of the night - shelving his own rebound after getting the feed from Joonas Donskoi - put the Sharks up by three at 16:27.
But the Flames got it right back, as the second powerplay unit came up with a clutch goal to make it a two-goal game once again. Justin Braun tried to knock down Brodie's long point shot, but he only got a piece of it en route, tipping it past Jones at 17:42.
Video: SJS@CGY: Brodie has shot go off defender for PPG
Again, the Flames pressed and had all kinds of chances early in the third, but the puck - somehow - stayed out.
Elias Lindholm, in particular, had a great look from the right dot with Jones well out of position on a powerplay, but his open-net try was blocked by a sprawling defender. He came right back on the next shift and led a 2-on-1 with Sam Bennett, but he just missed his mark, firing it off the blocker-side post.
The Flames had - quite literally - done everything but score.
"You've got to bear down," Monahan explained. "It's the NHL and it's not easy to score goals. When you get your chances, you've got to be ready to put the puck in the back of the net or it's going to come back to bite you."
Hertl rounded out the scoring on a late-game powerplay to salt a 5-2 decision.
With the loss, the Flames fall to 34-15-5.
They will now head off on a four-game road trip, beginning Saturday in Vancouver.