Tuesday, March 9, 2021
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SNAPSHOTS: Flames show better, still lose to Oilers

SNAPSHOTS: Flames show better, still lose to Oilers
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They’ve had worse games with better results.

There’s no separate column for moral victories in the Battle of Alberta history books, or in the NHL’s North Division standings, but the Calgary Flames — in their current quest to find some consistency . . . and quick — can’t be too disheartened by anything but the final score in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.

It was ultimately a bummer . . . but it was better.

While that may be little consolation for a frustrated fan-base, especially since they’ll be enduring chirps from any cousin or co-worker who bleeds copper and blue, there were building blocks.

The Saddledome hosts were more diligent, more engaged from start to finish. There were fewer mental lapses, although they did fall behind early — yeah, again — due to a defensive breakdown.

The Flames managed Friday to keep Connor McDavid, the NHL’s scoring leader, off the stat-sheet, which is never an easy feat.

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They just didn’t win. They’re now 8-8-1.

Rasmus Andersson had the lone tally for the home-side, while seldom-used backup goalie David Rittich — in just his third start of the season — delivered a highlight-reel desperation save early in the third, somehow managing to get his paddle on what looked like a freebie for reigning Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl, but was still saddled with the ‘L.’ Even though Rittich was named the first star, this wasn’t one of those where they needed to be bailed out over and over again by the masked man.

There was plenty of pressure on the Flames after Wednesday’s lopsided loss to Vancouver, with 40-some hours of debate about their locker-room culture, competitiveness and give-a-hoot.

They had to show better Friday. They mostly did, although they may have been promoting social-distancing best-measures on Edmonton’s opening strike — there were four red sweaters around the slot-area, but none of the would-be defenders bothered to pick up Jesse Puljujarvi. Nice shot, sure, and a sweet feed by Tyson Barrie, but this will go in the bad-news bin for the next video session.

When Puljujarvi buried from close range, the Flames had yet to record a shot on net at the opposite end, but they did lead in that stat category by the end of the opening stanza.

Toward the tail-end of a tight-checking second, Oilers depth dude Gaetan Haas doubled the lead, cashing a loose puck from the edge of the blue paint.

The Flames replied just 45 seconds later. Johnny Gaudreau made Barrie look silly with a slick stick-lift on the forecheck and dished to a hard-charging Andersson for a bar-down beauty.

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The Flames will be seeking revenge in Saturday’s back-half of this home-and-home set at Rogers Place (8 p.m. MT, CBC/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

THE BOSS ON BENNETT

For the past few weeks, Flames general manager Brad Treliving had been silent on Sam Bennett’s reported trade request.

He addressed the topic at the end of a fiery interview Thursday on Sportsnet 960 The Fan and while Treliving wouldn’t dish on his behind-closed-doors discussions with the 24-year-old Bennett, he didn’t sound like he was in any rush to find a new home for the disgruntled forward.

“A few weeks ago, I think we all saw, Sam’s agent decided to have a conversion with the media in talking about changes of scenery and all that,” Treliving said. “We’ll determine, whether it be Sam Bennett or anybody else, what their scenery is and when it’s going to change.

“Until such time, Sam is a member of the Calgary Flames. He’s like every other member of the Calgary Flames. We think Sam is a hell of a player and we expect him to be a real good player here, and we’ll go from there.”

AROUND THE BOARDS

Flames centre Sean Monahan was a surprise scratch against the Oilers due to a lower-body injury. With Monahan missing in action, the Flames started the evening with both a new and old look to their top-six forward cast — Elias Lindholm was working between Gaudreau and Dillon Dube on a never-tried-before trio, while Mikael Backlund was reunited with Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk on what was a consistent combo last season. Josh Leivo, after sitting the past two as a healthy scratch, later wound up in Dube’s spot . . . Friday was darn-near a full day-off for workhorse goalie Jacob Markstrom, who skipped an optional morning skate and was on gate duties as Rittich knocked off the rust. Markstrom, who was Calgary’s prized free-agent addition and has been a definite bright spot so far, has already been between the pipes for 827:47. Around the league, Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the only puck-stopper who has played more . . . The Flames were hosting their ninth Hockey Talks game, an annual staple aimed to raise awareness for mental health issues and shine a spotlight on the various resources available in our city and surrounding area.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/WesGilbertson

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