Outplayed for the third time in four outings against a team with more losses than anyone outside Ottawa, Calgary Flames coach Geoff Ward was asked to sum up his team’s series showing against Vancouver.
“Inconsistent – it’s probably the best way,” said Ward, fuming following a 5-1 loss to the Canucks.
“But we’ve been talking about that for a while now. It’s time to put this thing to bed and take charge and take control of what we can. We can control the way we start and we can control how we pay attention to details and how hard we compete and how much we care. All those things are certainly within our control. It’s time for us to start giving a [expletive] about it.”
In a game that featured much of what’s ailed the Flames so far this season, it was a four-on-one that ended the evening for Jacob Markstrom, who has masked so many of the team’s blemishes this season.
Brock Boeser capped the rush with a roof job that paved the way for David Rittich to get much-needed action with 12 minutes left.
By then the Flames had exhausted their give-a-crap expenditure.
Embarrassed on home ice by a struggling Canucks club that just split the four-game set, the Flames showed no signs of pushback, bite or frustration outside of a lone Matthew Tkachuk scrum after the whistle.
The coach, and anyone still watching, would like to have seen a little sandpaper from the lads.
“That’s not too old school, it’s absolutely true,” said Ward. “There’s something to be gotten out of every period you play. You’re trying to win the period and trying to compete and there’s an awful lot with a good period we can set ourselves up for.
“There’s a place for old school in the game, there’s no question.”
It’ll be required Friday and Saturday when the Battle of Alberta goes back-to-back.
What will also be required is Rittich, who stopped all four shots he faced in his mop-up duty.
With two unsuccessful starts to his credit this season, he’ll now have to step in with more frequency, meaning the Flames risk being fully exposed without being able to count on the heroics of their masked MVP.
Markstrom has bailed this club out from countless slow starts, egregious turnovers and 20-minute no-shows. On this night he was human.
“We let him down a little bit tonight,” said Mark Giordano, whose club gave up its customary first-period deficit courtesy of a horrific giveaway by Dominik Simon two minutes in.
“You can’t give up Grade A opportunities like that – two-on-one and breakaways come to mind. (He forgot the four-on-one). But we’ll move forward as a team. We’ve got two big games coming up.”
With two minutes left in the second period of a 2-0 game, Andrew Mangiapane’s solo effort closed the gap for a mere 15 seconds before the Canucks added two more before the buzzer. Rally killers.
“The second period is the one that really bites,” said Giordano, whose 8-7-1 club sits tied for fifth in the division with the Canucks, who have played four extra games.
“We’ve played some games where we haven’t been really good where we’ve gotten points so maybe it’s the hockey gods.”
Ever the pro, Markstrom fell on his sword, admitting he needed to be much better in what was his only questionable outing of his 14 starts. He was right, but no one is faulting him after the way he performed in the series and as a Flame.
“Not happy – I’ve got to be better, that’s it,” said Markstrom, who raced out of his crease on two occasions to play the puck, resulting in a significant collision with Tanner Pearson and a miss that led to Bo Horvat’s easy shot into an empty net midway through the second.
“It was pretty clear, obviously I had no business going out on either one of them. One I got lucky enough it hit my pad with the puck. The other one they scored. You want to help the team win and stop the puck and not give away goals like that. It’s frustrating when you are helping the other team instead of helping your own team.”
Ward put his lines in a blender early on this night, trying to spark a comeback in a game in which Brett Ritchie’s first appearance of the year may have been the most noteworthy of all Flames skaters. By night’s end the 6-foot-4, 220-pound NHL veteran was skating alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, while causing plenty of hurt in the corners.
The Flames host Edmonton Friday.