Less than two weeks ago in Calgary, the Hurricanes were the better team and walked away with a hard-fought point. In the rematch today, they were far and away the better team early, but the Flames settled into what became a competitive, back-and-forth hockey game. Unfortunately for the Canes, they came out on the wrong end of it in regulation.
"These are all big games for us," Justin Williams said. "This was certainly two that slipped away that we feel we could have had both games against them, but we can't let it derail us from what we're going to do."
Video: Hear from Williams and Brind'Amour Postgame
"We know where we are in the standings. We want to win every game, get as many points as we can and try to get in the playoffs. It sucks when we lose," Dougie Hamilton said. "We'll just go to the next game and try to win that."
"It was a good game," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "There was a lot of excitement in it and lots of chances, but obviously we needed to win a lot more than they did, so it hurts."
The difference in the game was simple: The Hurricanes were 0-for-4 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal, while the Flames were 1-for-5 on the man advantage.
Garnet Hathaway scored the shorthanded goal for the Flames when he finished off a pass from former Hurricane Derek Ryan on a 2-on-1 rush. That goal stretched the Flames' lead to 3-1 in the second period.
"There's the difference right there," Hamilton said.
"That's not acceptable, and that's the difference in the game," Brind'Amour said.
Special teams has to be more special than that for the Canes.
"Our power play was minus-1, which can't happen," Williams said. "We need to execute and score goals."
All three former Hurricanes on the Flames' roster found the back of the net in their old barn today, as if the wound from the loss didn't already sting enough.
Elias Lindholm extended his point streak to 10 games with a power-play marker in the first period that tied the game at one. Ryan scored on a wrap-around in the second to put the Flames up 2-1. Noah Hanifin's slap shot from the point at the 13:05 mark of the third period was ultimately the game-winner.
Not to be left out, former Flame Dougie Hamilton got his new club within a goal late in the second period, as he beat David Rittich glove side from the right circle.
Video: CGY@CAR: Hamilton trims the deficit with wrister
"I don't care. I'm just trying to win," Hamilton said about scoring against his former team. "It's a really good team over there, and we were right there with them. We know we can play with everyone in the league when we're playing good."
Former Flame Micheal Ferland also notched two primary assists, one as the Hurricanes took advantage of an early miscue by the Flames to open the scoring on what was essentially a 3-on-0, tic-tac-toe passing play to Teuvo Teravainen, and the second as he fed Sebastian Aho for a one-timer in the final minute of regulation.
Video: CGY@CAR: Teravainen opens scoring on pretty setup
Let's have a quick chat about goaltender interference.
In the first period, Andrei Svechnikov drove the net with the puck and made contact with Rittich on his way through the crease. Svechnikov was whistled for a goaltender interference minor.
In the third period, James Neal drove the net with the puck and made contact with Petr Mrazek on his way through the crease. Neal was not whistled for a goaltender interference minor, play continued and Hanifin scored what would be the difference in the game.
"Svech, he takes the puck to the net hard. He always does it, and he seems to get called for it quite a bit. They, obviously, on that goal took it to the net hard, as well," Williams said. "One was called, one wasn't. That's the guts of the game sometimes. That's the human element."
Brind'Amour and the Canes rightly challenged the goal, but the officials upheld the call on the ice, likely asserting that Mrazek had ample time to reset. That's probably the right call, but it's wildly inconsistent with a call made in the exact same situation just two periods prior.
"You can't tell [what's goaltender interference]. You can never figure that out. I didn't think Svech's was, and to be honest with you, I didn't think that was at the end of the game, either," Brind'Amour said. "But when they called the one on Svech, I'm like, well, for sure they're going to call that because it's the exact same kind of thing. … It's confusing for everybody. It is what it is."
As he has basically all season long, Mrazek was better than what a cursory glance at the box score might suggest. Of his 28 saves, a good handful or two came on grade-A scoring chances for the Flames.
Video: CGY@CAR: Mrazek extends pad to rob Monahan
He stoned Sean Monahan in the slot with his right pad in the first period. Mrazek made two stellar, point-blank stops in the second after Jaccob Slavin's stick betrayed him on the penalty kill, and then Mrazek denied Mikael Backlund, who was in all alone looking to stretch Calgary's lead to three.
Video: CGY@CAR: Mrazek denies Neal's chances
It was a solid body of work for No. 34.
"Our confidence is great in Petr, Mac and everyone who has come in and played. They've given us a chance every night, and that's all you can ask for," Williams said. "[Mrazek] is fiery, and I love that about him."
The Hurricanes embark on a season-long, five-game road trip that will take them through Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New York, New Jersey and Ottawa over the next nine days.
"It's a tough road trip, obviously, but we're just looking at the next game," Brind'Amour said. "It's going to be a grind for us."