Can’t win every game. Seeing the Calgary Flames’ early-season streak end at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres may offer a few lessons that are necessary for the long haul.
A 6-3 loss to the Sabres will offer a lot of tape to review.
Four straight Sabres goals in a span of about 14 minutes put the Flames on their heels.
“I don’t think we came out with the right attitude right away,” Flames veteran Trevor Lewis told Sportsnet 960 after the contest. “They’re a fast team and we let them play their game.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter warned earlier in the day about the rebuilding Sabres’ combination of size, speed and skill. Apparently his players needed a reminder on the ice.
It was on full display early as Dylan Cozens, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Tuch all scored. They gave the visitors a comfortable 4-1 lead as they headed toward the second intermission.
The Andrew Mangiapane opener minutes into the first frame was long forgotten.
So was the familiarity the Calgary Flames defencemen had built through camp, thanks to a nagging injury that kept Noah Hanifin out of the contest.
That forced two new combinations — Nikita Zadorov with Rasmus Andersson and Michael Stone alongside Connor Mackey. Only Chris Tanev and MacKenzie Weegar remained untouched.
Markstrom yanked by Flames in first intermission
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom was relegated to the bench after the first intermission. Dan Vladar was victimized on his first shot less than a minute into the second. It was Tuch’s first goal of the contest. He added a second snipe on a third-period powerplay after a Flames giveaway. That one crushed the momentum the Flames were building. A late goal in the second stanza had sparked signs of life.
And until Zadorov took an unfortunate tripping penalty at his blueline midway through the final frame, the Calgary Flames looked a lot like the team that built up a 3-0 record. Against three Western Conference powerhouses in the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights.
“We’re always going to push back. I don’t think we’re going to quit,” Lewis said. “It was a nice pushback but it wasn’t enough.”
Comeback falls short
Sutter’s lines in a blender, Lewis scored his first of the season on a nifty setup from Jonathan Huberdeau. The sneaky left winger spun as he pulled the puck into space across the crease. Lewis streaked in to snap it into the right side of the cage with less than a minute to play in the second period.
They carried that momentum into the third period and had a handful of good chances only to be rejected by Sabres goalie Eric Comrie. Or in Nazem Kadri’s case, the post.
Zadorov brought the team to within a single strike — something they certainly seemed capable of — before his penalty snuffed out their hopes.
Tuch earned the first hat-trick of his career with an empty netter.
The Sabres were outshot by the Flames, who fired 43 shots at Comrie. But too many of them came during their push in the third.
If the Calgary Flames played as hard as they did during that stretch from the start, they might not have had such a steep hole to climb out of.