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Flames lament lost opportunity against the Blackhawks

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

As the seconds wound inexorably down, the ice surface seemed to have shrunk by two-thirds. Inside the confines of the offensive zone, chaos and claustrophobia reigned.

Oh, the Flames banged relentlessly at the door Chicago Blackhawks' goaltender Robin Lehner had personally dead-bolted and barricaded.

They battered away. Hacked at the lock with a crowbar.

Did virtually everything but light a stick of dynamite to blow the thing off its hinges.

But in the end, they couldn't break it down and another listless start had condemned the the Flames to another loss full of self-recrimination.

"I mean, we're at the time of the year where we can't be satisfied with a good, close (near) comeback,'' declared Sam Bennett in the wake of the 5-3 loss to the visiting Hawks Tuesday night.

"We need wins.

"The standings are going to be this tight for the rest of the year right to the playoffs.

"So we need wins right now."


Video: "We showed tons of fight in the third period."


For the second time in 48 hours, the Flames were lit up early, falling behind 3-0 after a period.

Then trailing 4-0 inside the final 10 seconds of the middle frame, Bennett's late, late cash of a Derek Ryan pass dragged them out of the doldrums.

He'd personally tried to drive his team forward most of the night, ruffling Patrick Kane's well-coiffed feathers with a thunderous hip check and very nearly turning Hawks' centre John Quenneville into a piece or origami with another debilitating check.

Bennett's relentless ferociousness paid off and the final 20 minutes was strictly one-way traffic.

First Michael Frolik scored unassisted, shorthanded, at 15:30, then only 1:18 later, Sean Monahan pulled Calgary to within a goal as the Scotiabank Saddledome ignited.

With only a tick on the scoreclock left, though, Kane collected his second goal and fourth point of the evening.


Video: "In this league, that's hard to come back from."


"A little push at the end,'' Flames' left-winger Matthew Tkachuk conceded. "Gets everybody fired up and gets energy in the building. But …."
But the fatal damage had, he implied, been inflicted a long time earlier.

"I mean it's hard to pinpoint one thing,'' sighed Bennett of the recent first-period travails. "I think we're coming out flat.

"We've got to a better job on the forecheck. You see in the latter half of the second and third our forecheck was way better and they were turning over pucks."

If any of the Flames personally tried to propel his team forward, that man was Bennett.  

"We showed tons of fight in the third period,'' he said of an 18-9 shot advantage that reflected Calgary's territorial dominance. "It's unfortunate we couldn't find a way to get that last one in."

"At the end of the day, we didn't start on time,'' said Flames' interim coach Geoff Ward.


Video: "Slow start and we ended up chasing the game"


What's been lacking in back-to-back opening periods?

"Energy," was the boss's reply. "I think execution. Our forecheck was really not apparent the last two hockey games at the start.

"Tonight I felt like we were really, really passive early, as opposed to going after them. And we ended up paying the price."

Unlike Sunday versus the Canucks, Ward chose to leave starter David Rittich in the net despite an early 3-0 hole.

"At some point,'' said Ward, "you've just got to let him battle; work himself through it."

And Rittich did, overcoming the early troubles to produce some excellent saves.

"Frustration level? There are reasons why. I'm as frustrated as everybody is, probably," said Ward.

"Saying that, we can't change the result tonight. What we've gotta do is get prepared to have a better start against the Rangers.

"That's all we can control now."

Next up, as Ward mentioned, the Broadway Blueshirts on Thursday at the 'Dome.

"You can't let it linger,'' lectured Tkachuk of Tuesday's disappointment, "because we're playing every other night until All Star break here, so we've got to find a way to move and just get a win here.

"We've got one more here to give ourselves a little jump-start heading out on a two-game road trip."

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