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Flames fall to Ducks in first game of California road trip

The Calgary Flames arrived at Anaheim’s Honda Center fresh after a few days’ worth of skates plus a day off and plenty of rest.

Heck, they hadn’t played since Saturday’s 5-3 come-from-behind win (their fifth come-from-behind win of the season) over the Chicago Blackhawks. And since that victory, they talked about how their play through the previous five games isn’t sustainable despite having won four straight, scoring a league-leading 28 goals in the third period and nabbing points in all five of those games.

As for the Anaheim Ducks? It’s been a season already worth forgetting with a plethora of injuries, an adjustment to a new faster style of play and, just 24 hours earlier, they suffered a loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

So you know how Wednesday’s 3-2 Flames loss was supposed to go — kick them while they’re down.

Nope.

Down 2-1 early in the third with Mikael Backlund in the box for tripping, the Flames received a huge boost from Mark Jankowski who roofed a short-handed goal at the 6:06 mark after battling to win the puck off Brandon Montour in their zone. Tie game.

Not for long.

Twenty-seven seconds later, the visitors were scrambling in front of Mike Smith when Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf roofed one of his own on the Flames’ struggling netminder. They pulled Smith with 2:28 left and sent out an extra attacker, and, sure enough, the Calgary club was able to draw a penalty from Rickard Rakell to create a six-on-four with 1:14 remaining. A comeback was not in the cards on this night, unfortunately.

Struggling, you say?

While the goal alone wasn’t enough to fault Smith for, it was his entire 60 minutes of work that needed to instil more confidence in front of him. The two first-period goals he allowed prior to that were not shining moments.

The first one came at the 8:37 mark of the opening frame on a blooper of a save attempt on Jakob Silfverberg’s shot which Smith thought he’d stopped between his pads before letting it dribble between his legs.

Ouch.

To make matter worse, shortly after 19-year-old Isac Lundestrom tossed an odd-angled shot from behind the net which nearly went off Smith and between his legs.

The Ducks’ second goal came when the Flames were completely disorganized off a face-off which allowed the puck to find Josh Manson at the point. He sent a shot through traffic which Smith stopped, but he couldn’t control the rebound. It squirted out to Adam Henrique and — boom — the home side was up 2-0.

Before the period was over, the Flames cut the Ducks lead in half just five seconds on a power play with another Matthew Tkachuk deflection on an Elias Lindholm’s point-shot.

They got out of the period relatively unscathed, especially since Tkachuk was tagged for high-sticking with 2:50 remaining.

In the second frame, the Flames were getting their chances but just couldn’t capitalize on them.

They drew their second power play of the night when Marcus Pettersson was nabbed for hooking at 7:09. Despite a bounty of rebounds kicked out by Ryan Miller, the Flames couldn’t connect. Mikael Backlund had a wide-open net and missed, allowing Silfverberg to toss a short-handed shot at Smith.

Mark Jankowski had acres of net to shoot at but shot it right at Miller’s chest.

James Neal had an open net and missed.

Sean Monahan couldn’t handle the puck for a tap-in.

Johnny Gaudreau hit the post.

Sam Bennett shot wide and missed the net.

Nothing.

In the end, Smith, who dropped to 5-5-1, allowed three goals on 24 shots while Miller — who is two years older than Smith and gave No. 1 John Gibson the night off — stopped 37-of-39 Flames’ attempts.

The loss snapped a four-game win streak as the Flames (9-6-1) continue on a three-game road swing through California. Next up? Another day off on Thursday and a practice on Friday before heading to Staples Center to square off with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday followed by the second half of a back-to-back on Sunday against the San Jose Sharks.

kanderson@postmedia.com

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Original Source
Author: Kristen Anderson, Postmedia

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