It felt a little like déjà vu. The Calgary Flames outshooting the Sharks but being rejected by Adin Hill too often while San Jose’s stars Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl take over the game.
It happened at the Saddledome in November and it happened again Tuesday night at the Shark Tank. Hill made 40 saves and Hertl had a hat-trick with his empty netter closing out the 5-3 Sharks victory in San Jose.
There were some differences from that first battle, though. The Flames scored first this time when Dillon Dube opened the scoring early. They added to their lead, with Johnny Gaudreau giving them a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Adam Ruzicka’s first NHL goal was a new wrinkle, too.
It might have been the only silver lining for a Calgary Flames team that finished its four-game road swing through the Pacific Division with a 1-2-1 record.
The 22-year-old playing in his second game of the season and just the fifth of his career gave the Flames a 3-1 lead in the second period. It looked like they would cruise to a win.
But the lead collapsed in a way we haven’t seen with this year’s Flames group. In an eight-minute span, they saw their two-goal lead turn into a one-goal deficit. The familiar part from there was Hill’s refusal to give up another goal.
In the Flames net, Dan Vladar took his first regulation loss of the season (5-1-1) in his first start against the Sharks.
We’ll see how the Flames rebound. It was just the second time they lost back-to-back in regulation this year after dropping Sunday night’s decision to the Vegas Golden Knights.
But back to the kid’s puck trophy goal.
Ruzicka nets first NHL goal for Flames
Ruzicka deflected Chris Tanev’s point shot into Hill’s pad but then pulled his own rebound back into better shooting position and potted the puck into the open side to give the Flames a two-goal lead.
The Czech product seemed to ramp up his game the way head coach Darryl Sutter suggested after his debut in Vegas.
“I think there’s still work to do there,” Sutter said Sunday. “There’s a good package but I think the pace and the compete and all those things still gotta go up a lot.”
Ruzicka seemed to agree while talking to Flames TV on Tuesday.
“Just got to bump up in every situation. My energy level. My fastness on the ice, and just go from there,” he said.
“I’m taking full charge of it. It’s an opportunity every game I can play, every shift, and I’ve just got to take it.”
Although Ruzicka played three games for the Calgary Flames last year, these last two have been his first in front of fans. That might have added to any jitters he was feeling in Vegas.
“Not only first NHL game with fans, it’s in Vegas, too. It’s kind of an intimidating place with a lot of energy and with a great crowd,” said Flames veteran Milan Lucic. “He seems to have handled it well. I liked his game for his first one stepping in this season.”
Lucic noted Ruzicka’s familiarity with the rink in San Jose, where he’s played many times against the AHL Barracuda.
“Hopefully he takes another step,” said Lucic.
The team gets a chance to do the same as a group on Thursday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.