Do you think the Flames will make the playoffs?The Chicago Blackhawks prove that sometimes you have be lucky to be good, while if it wasn't for bad luck, the Calgary Flames would have none at all.
With Miikka Kiprusoff pacing his team with 24 stellar stops against one of the NHL's top teams, it was a deflection off the leg of Blackhawks' tough-guy Ben Eager that proved to be the game-winner in a 3-1 Chicago win Thursday.
"It was a good feeling late in the third when Bennie gets a lucky one off his knee. We'll take it," said Eager's linemate, Colin Fraser.
The loss hands the Flames (26-19-6) their sixth straight loss, five within regulation.
Patrick Kane opened the scoring for the visiting Blackhawks (35-12-4) on the power play in the second period while Duncan Keith added an empty netter.
Jamie Lundmark had the lone goal for the Calgary.
Kiprusoff was the busier of the two goalies for most of the game, and faced double the five shots Niemi was subject to — that also included a penalty shot chance off the stick of Kane.
The Flames' goalie missed on the poke check attempt but was able to get his left pad out in time to deny the young Blackhawks sniper as the game continued as a scoreless draw through the first 20 minutes.
The second period saw the two teams trade minor injuries — first Jay Bouwmeester was clipped with a high stick and sustained a gash on the bridge of his nose. Moments later, Patrick Sharp favoured his right arm as he was hit by Calgary's Adam Pardy. Both would shrug of their wounds and continue playing.
A turnover by the Flames' Jarome Iginla inside his own blue-line to Kris Versteeg required a strong save by Kiprusoff. Versteeg gathered the puck and threw a pass across the slot to John Madden, who was stoned by the Finnish goaltender.
Kiprusoff wasn't able to deny the Hawks on the next carbon-copy giveaway chance.
With Glencross off for a high-stick at 8:09 of the second, Toews picked up the puck from Cory Sarich just inside the Flames' blue-line and rifled a pass across the wide-open slot, where Kane fired it home for the 1-0 lead.
"There's no question we weren't as sharp," said Iginla, who is without a goal in his last nine games. "Guys wanted to make the plays, guys wanted to make the difference. But for the most part, almost all of us were, you know that old saying, we're squeezing a little hard and not making the passes and looking like we were standing still.
"A lot of times when it looks like you're standing still, it's because you're thinking and you're trying too hard and you're pressing."
Lundmark tied it up on a power-play chance half a period later as he played Johnny-on-the-spot at the side of the Chicago net. Flames' defenceman Dion Phaneuf fired a rocket from inside the blue-line which Niemi got most of, but the Hawks goalie couldn't find the dribbling rebound in his crease before Lundmark smashed it home.
Kiprusoff continued to have the majority of the rubber fired at him, Calgary was outshot 24-16 through the midway point of the third period, but it wasn't the best shot that eluded him.
A shot from Chicago's Tomas Kopecky bounced off the leg of teammate Eager and fooled Kiprusoff to break the tie 5:52 into the third.
The Flames came as close as a Craig Conroy shot off the crossbar with less than five minutes to go, but couldn't beat Niemi as Duncan Keith added an empty net goal to seal it for Chicago.
"We really have to find a way to start winning a lot of games and winning a lot of games in a row to get back in this thing," said Conroy. "This one was a must-win for us, but we don't capitalize, we don't do it. We had some good chances but we didn't finish. It seemed like we still came out a little slow again for whatever reason."