The first game of a six-game road trip didn’t end the way the Calgary Flames had hoped. And it doesn’t get any easier from here.
Stops in Sunrise, Fla., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington and Carolina await. After a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, the Flames are already chasing.
Chasing is a good way to describe how they played most of the night, too.
Despite outshooting the Bolts 40-24, it was the hosts who had the better scoring chances.
The Flames thought they scored first when Milan Lucic beat Andrei Vasilevskiy in the opening period, but a coach’s challenge from Jon Cooper reversed it over an offside.
“I said to myself when they challenged it, ‘Here we go,’ ” Lucic told reporters post-game. “For myself personally, I say if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have none at all.”
It didn’t take long for the Lightning to counter.
Just 38 seconds.
And they may have taken some of Lucic’s luck.
Trevor Lewis and Chris Tanev tried hard to defend a patented Lightning transition rush, but Lewis couldn’t corral the puck and it went right to Steven Stamkos. The sniper made no mistake as he lifted the puck over a sliding Tanev and Jacob Markstrom’s glove to get the Lightning on the board first.
The second period saw some push from the Flames but a holding penalty on Rasmus Andersson was another one of those turning points.
The Calgary Flames defenceman watched from the box as his blueline partner Noah Hanifin sent the puck a little too softly up the boards to clear it. Mikael Sergachev held it in and before you could blink, Nikita Kucherov fired a one-timer past Markstrom for the 2-0 lead.
Vasilevskiy did everything he could to ensure there would be no comeback in the third period.
With a powerplay early on, the Flames peppered the Lightning goaltender. He stoned Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri to preserve the lead.
Temporarily, at least.
After the next faceoff, Kadri provided a perfect screen on Elias Lindholm’s shot from the top of the circles and the Flames cut the lead in half.
Oh, and Huberdeau battled hard on the boards to keep the puck in the zone to create that chance.
Again, the bliss lasted less than a minute.
Less than half a minute.
It took just 10 for Tampa to clap back again. Blake Coleman couldn’t get to a dump-in as it rang around the boards and Bolts defenceman Philippe Myers floated the puck in on net. It looked harmless. But it beat Markstrom glove side to give the Lightning a 3-1 stranglehold.
Flames coach Darryl Sutter said his team still had hope and didn’t seem deflated by the quick response.
“It is a little bit (deflating) but I think we were still sharp on the bench,” Sutter said.
“Those are trench goals. They’re mistakes, they’re battles.”
We’ll see what the Calgary Flames response is against the Florida Panthers as they face former teammate Matthew Tkachuk Saturday afternoon.