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Flames hope to halt skid when Bruins come to town

Sportsnaut
Dec 9, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Sebastian Aho (20) scores a goal against Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) during the overtime period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes right wing Sebastian Aho (20) scores a goal against Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) during the overtime period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a three-game losing skid, the Calgary Flames remain atop the Pacific Division standings heading into Saturday’s home clash with the Boston Bruins.

It’s a remarkable position for the Flames to hold, since they have the fewest home-ice victories among the eight Pacific Division clubs. Granted, the Flames have played the fewest home games at this point, but their 4-2-4 record at the Saddledome certainly leaves much to be desired.

“We need to improve our home record and the games at home. There’s nothing more fun than to win at home in front of the fans and family and friends. We need to get going and keep going,” coach Darryl Sutter said.

The Flames are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday in the first half of this two-game homestand. On three occasions in the third period, Carolina skaters saved sure goals with outreached sticks after shots had beaten the goaltender.

But a loss is a loss, so there are no moral victories.

“We didn’t get two points, so it wasn’t good,” goalie Jacob Markstrom said. “We didn’t get two points, and now we haven’t got two points three games in a row. That’s not good for our group, not good for our team and not good enough for me.”

The Flames, who boast a 12-1-3 record against Eastern Conference teams, certainly have one key area to address. Their power play failed to convert on five chances against the Hurricanes, including one handed with just over one minute remaining in regulation time and spilled into the overtime. Calgary has failed to score with 11 power-play chances in the last four games.

The Bruins arrive after claiming a thrilling 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday, in which Matt Grzelcyk scored the winner with 2:33 remaining in regulation time after his team saw a 2-0 lead disappear. Recovering to win meant a lot to the Bruins after losing two straight games in extra time, including a 2-1 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks the night before.

“We ended up getting a point but weren’t incredibly happy with the way we played (in Vancouver),” Grzelcyk said. “We knew we had a back-to-back coming into a tough building playing one of the best teams in the league. We have a lot of character on this team, a lot of believability. We sort of adjusted before the game that we wanted to play with a little more urgency, play with some more passion. Think that was kind of missing from our game (against the Canucks).”

Boston, which is just outside of a wild-card spot in the standings, has struggled to cobble together consistency, and the way the Bruins buckled down after seeing their lead disappear is a positive step.

“We just started playing. We just started playing our game in the third,” said assistant coach Joe Sacco, who is guiding the team while coach Bruce Cassidy remains home battling COVID-19. “It took us a couple periods to get going, but our group knew that we hadn’t played our best hockey through two periods, and they went out and played hockey.

“The circumstances are what they are, but we felt like we’re in the game after two and in a good situation. So, keep playing, just play hockey, stay on the attack, don’t sit back, don’t be so passive. And it was a better third, a good response after they got their second goal.”

–Field Level Media