No matter how you frame it a loss is always a loss, but in the aftermath of Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss Bob Hartley sounded like a winning coach.
And while Chicago Blackhawks mentor Joel Quenneville wasn’t exactly talking like a losing coach, he gave full acknowledgement that if it weren’t for Ray Emery his team wouldn’t be celebrating its seventh victory in nine games.
The Flames peppered the Hawks’ backup goaltender with 47 shots, including 24 in the third period, over three periods plus a five-minute overtime. They had three more chances in the shootout but could only get two pucks behind Emery in the highly entertaining match.
Patrick Kane, who scored the game’s first goal, assisted on Marian Hossa’s tying tally with three second left in regulation, and the only player to score in the shootout, wanted no credit.
“The two points belong to Ray Emery,” he said.
Quenneville was more empathetic.
“It was criminal. He (Emery) stole two points. He was spectacular. I have never been out-chanced and out-played like this in my life,” he said.
Hartley’s players were downtrodden and frustrated but the coach was encouraged.
“If we play every game like we played tonight we’re going to turn our season around, that’s for sure,” he said.
And the Flames season does need to get reversed. They have gone through their easiest portion of the season in terms of time between games while playing only one in six matches on the road with a 1-3-2 record.
The first year Calgary coach might also get a positive vibe from the fact that back in 1998-99 when he began his first NHL job, his Colorado Avalanche team was 1-4-1 through six games. They turned their season around, eventually finishing first in the Northwest Division and winning two rounds of playoffs. Two years later they won the Stanley Cup.
To his players Saturday’s setback was deflating after playing their finest game of the season. They came back after Kane’s opening goal to gain a 2-1 lead on goals from defenceman Jay Bouwmeester and Dennis Wideman with 34 seconds left in the third before Hossa forced OT.
The defeat left the Flames last in the Western Conference, however, they have played the least games of any team and now head out on a three-game road swing starting Tuesday in Detroit.
Saturday may have been a moral victory for the Flames, now they need the real thing.