Despite a new coach and a long delay to the start of season due to the lockout, it was much like the same old Calgary Flames in their season opener, highlighted by second period problems.
Bob Hartley finally got to coach his Flames for the first time, but felt the pain of the man he replaced Brent Sutter.
A strong first period was followed by a blah middle frame as the Flames lost their season opener bowing 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks.
Sunday started well enough for Hartley’s Flames. Lee Stempniak scored a PPG at 12:21 of the first. Last season when the Flames scored the first goal they posted a 25-9-7 record. As the teams went into the first intermission there was no hint of typical Flames issues. They outshot the Sharks 16-9, likely would have had more than one goal but for the fine work for Antti Niemi in the San Jose net. Calgary looked very much in command.
Then came the second period and a complete reversal. As the Flames faltered, the Sharks took charge scoring three goals in a space of 4:28 starting just before the 14-minute mark. Patrick Marleau had two of the goals with Martin Havlat triggering the other. The Flames were outshot 14-4.
Perhaps to Flames fans it shouldn’t have been so shocking. Last season they were outscored 72-56 in the middle stanza, many of them after good opening 20 minutes.
The Sharks would add another goal in the third period against Miikka Kiprusoff when Dan Boyle scored on the power play.
Flame captain Jarome Iginla typically starts seasons slow. He hasn’t scored a goal in the Flames first game of the year since 2006. He may have played his best opener in that time Sunday as he led all players with 6 shots on goal playing on a line with convert centre Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross.
Another old misery cropped up for the Flames. Failures in the first game of the season. It was their third successive opening night loss and have won just once in their last 10 lid-lifters.
If form holds, the Flames should do better in their second contest of the season at home Monday against the Anaheim Ducks. They are 5-1-2 over the past eight seasons in second matches.