Understandably, Geoff Ward wasn’t in the mood for niceties.
Asked about the effort that decisively ended his team’s three-game win streak, the Flames coach kept it short.
“We weren’t competitive,” he said, following Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Vancouver.
He wished to add nothing more, leaving the Zoom call with uncomfortable silence courtesy of the typically chatty coach.
Only when pressed would he elaborate.
“I thought we were slow everywhere,” he said.
“We weren’t skating. It was evident, and they were able to get a forecheck. The game is fair. We got what we deserved tonight. We got outworked, outskated and outcompeted. Usually, when that happens you don’t get the result you want.”
Indeed, after weeks of inconsistency, the Calgary Flames came up with their most complete outing of the season.
As in, completely outplayed from start to finish.
There were no lulls in their ability to remain the game’s second-best team, carrying their typical first-period face plant into a three-period effort that gave the Canucks their first win in seven games.
With the Flames expanding a 10-0 shot deficit the first ten minutes into a 46-19 difference by night’s end, the man lured from Vancouver with $36 million to stop pucks for the Flames probably started feeling a little underpaid.
Even on their power plays the Flames failed to gain any semblance of momentum.
Yet, there they were, tied 1-1 with five minutes left, thanks to yet another Jacob Markstrom masterpiece that masked one of the Flames’ worst outings of the year.
“We would have liked to have a point after your goalie stands on his head, but we probably got what we deserved,” said Mark Giordano, whose club allowed every single opponent to record at least one shot.
“Obviously they were desperate and they pressed hard, but we’ve got to be way better than that.”
Indeed they do, or all the momentum gained the previous three outings was for naught.
Fact is, the Flames were lucky two nights earlier to beat a Canucks club that fell victim to two unlucky bounces. Sean Monahan said the Flames knew the NHL’s most desperate team would throw everything at them, yet the Flames couldn’t respond with much more than the pretty game-tying goal by Sam Bennett that came just over a minute after Quinn Hughes scored a beauty on Markstrom.
“We weren’t good,” said Monahan.
“We’ve got to up our compete level. We’ve got to learn from that real quick.”
On this night, the Flames woes revolved around turnovers, which made it appropriate that the winning goal by Calgarian Tyler Myers with five minutes left came following a neutral zone turnover he created. His game-winner squeezed through his former netminder with the 44th shot on net – a season-high for the Flames that got even higher before Brandon Sutter capped things with an empty netter.
The Flames still have two more games against the Canucks in this four-game set and will likely have to play them without Mikael Backlund.
Less than a week after losing centre Derek Ryan with a broken finger the Flames lost the man who may just be their best centre so far this season.
Backlund left the game late in the first period after a 16-second shift, prompting some line shuffling that didn’t help the team’s cause.
Ward said after the game he didn’t have any update on Backlund’s status.
Rookie defenceman Connor Mackey drew in for Nikita Nesterov to make his first NHL start, complete with the customary solo spins to open warmup as teammates looked on from the bench.
The 24-year-old college hotshot out of Minnesota State – Mankato played 13:56 in his pro debut, which included 44 seconds of penalty killing time alongside Juuso Valimaki.
The young duo was on the ice for Hughes’ stellar goal, although it was Valimaki who fell for the defenceman’s fake pass before beating Markstrom with a shot inside the post.
Mackey had shown well in the pre-playoff training camp and was the first defenceman to sub in for the Flames this year. The fact that he did so ahead of Oliver Kylington or Michael Stone says plenty about how they fell about the youngster, who was pursued by the bulk of NHL clubs as a free agent.
“It was incredible – something I dreamed of as a kid, to play in your first NHL game,” said Mackey, whose father, Dave, played 129 games in the NHL.
“So, it was pretty cool to experience that. Too bad we couldn’t get the win, but it was pretty special.”