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Flames finding positives, but are short on answers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The Calgary Flames had no problems finding positives after their 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Finding answers that lead to positive results has been a far more difficult challenge for the Flames this season.

Calgary is 2-6-0 going into Barclays Center to play the New York Islanders on Monday. It has allowed at least four goals in five of the losses. The Flames have already waived and demoted one goalie (Karri Ramo), and Jonas Hiller got pulled Sunday after allowing four goals on 21 shots.

Worse yet, the Flames have not held a lead at the second intermission this season largely because they've been outscored 13-2 in the second period. They have trailed after two periods in seven of their eight games.

Playing catch-up after poor second periods with suspect goaltending isn't exactly the recipe for a struggling team to find answers.

"You can't chase all of the time," Flames forward Matt Stajan said. "It's easy to play when you're down two or three goals because you're going to get chances because the other team sits back. We have to find a way to win the second period. Our starts are OK, but when you're chasing all game and you give up a chance and they score, it's like a knife in your back."

But back to the positives for a second. The Flames found plenty despite the loss Sunday.

For instance, Hartley praised the way they played in the second period, even though they were outscored 2-0 and trailed 2-1 going into the dressing room for intermission.

"I thought we had a great second period, but it's tough to put the word great to a period where you come back with two goals against and a one goal deficit," Hartley said. "But I like what we did. I thought we skated well, generated a lot, but they got the two goals."

Hartley also credited Calgary's top line of Sean Monahan, Jiri Hudler and Johnny Gaudreau for being one of the best lines in hockey.

"We all know about the chemistry," Hartley said.

We also know that Monahan, Gaudreau and Hudler have combined for half of Calgary's offense this season. They have 22 points, including 10 from Gaudreau; the rest of the Flames players have combined for 22, including 12 from the other 10 forwards that have played.

"Either it's going the extra mile and digging in, or it's trying something where we can generate a bit more, because right now we're not scoring enough goals," Stajan said. "Obviously, it's the one line that's scoring all of our goals, and in this League you need the depth guys to score. We all have to be better."

Hiller said the Flames were better Sunday than they had been in previous losses because they skated with the Rangers for almost the entire game and just didn't get lucky.

"They have a really good skating team, one of the best teams in the East, and we were able to play with them for the most part of the night," Hiller said. "That's the positive you've gotta see. Sure the result is not what we wanted, but last games we were badly outplayed where [Sunday] I thought we had our chances too."

It's true that two of New York's goals went in off of Calgary defensemen, but the Rangers didn't feel they got into the rhythm of their game until midway through the second period. That gave the Flames approximately 30 minutes to take advantage. They couldn't do it.

"We had our chances to go up more than just one goal or to tie it 2-2, and we didn't score," Hiller said. "That might cost you, but if we played that way every night we're going to win some games and that's what we need right now."

They do need wins because they're losing ground quickly in the Western Conference. While it's way too early to start talking in depth about races, the Flames are already seven points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot.

It won't be too early to talk about races soon, which is why the Flames need to find answers now.

"This business is about winning games," Hartley said. "I feel like there are lots of positives in our game, but in every game there are a couple of holes and we always end up paying the price and it's costing us some points."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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