Calgary’s Comeback Kids finally ran out of time.
For the first time in four games the Flames were unable to author a third period comeback, falling 3-2 to the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center Wednesday.
Down 2-1 entering the final period, the Flames’ bid to become just the fourth team in NHL history to win four straight games while trailing after two periods was stymied by a vintage Ryan Miller outing.
A mere 27 seconds after the Flames scored their league-leading 29th third-period goal early in the frame to tie the game, former Calgary Hitmen captain Ryan Getzlaf scored the winner.
It was a gutsy, solid effort in a building the Flames have only won once in in their last 28 visits.
Alas, the outing puts an end to a five-game point streak that saw the Flames collect nine of a possible ten points following their 9-1 setback against Pittsburgh.
They can thank Miller for that, as he turned aside 37 of 39 Flames shots to earn the win.
Here are some takeaways from the first of a three-game roadie in California.
Smith Stumbles… Again
Mike Smith continues to be the biggest talking point of the Flames’ season for all the wrong reasons.
The 36-year-old once again put the Flames in an early hole with a whiff NHL starters simply shouldn’t make.
Smith had a clear view of Jakob Silfverberg’s slap shot from the faceoff dot, yet found a way to turn a routine save into an adventure that somehow squeezed through his pads and into the net only eight minutes into the game.
Deflating, and all too common a sight for the Flames this season.
By night’s end Smith finished with 19 saves on 22 shots, marking the eighth time in 11 starts his save percentage was under .900.
The man who entered the game with a ghastly 3.71 goals-against average and .871 save percentage was outplayed once again by his counterpart.
Give Smith credit, after his Flames spotted the Ducks a 2-0 lead he held the fort with a stellar second period that included key saves on Pontus Aberg and Hampus Lindholm as well as two stops on Rickard Rakell.
Yet, after his team tied the game early in the third he was unable to stop Getzlaf in tight.
The club has largely resisted the urge to start red-hot backup David Rittich more than Smith, hoping to give the veteran a chance to fight his way through the struggles that have plagued him since the late stages of last season.
How long that will last is anyone’s guess.
The Real Deal… Finally
Although he had nothing but four shots to show for it, this was James Neal’s best outing as a Flame.
Neal was stymied by Miller on a great setup by Tkachuk, and made a great pass to Sean Monahan who was unable to convert during a delayed penalty call.
In short, Neal fit in. He was noticeable.
Coach Bill Peters said this week he likes Neal on the Backlund line, and suggested he could play there much more moving forward.
How often may largely be dictated by the opposition as Michael Frolik has been his go-to guy on Backlund’s shut-down line whenever the Flames face one of the league’s more formidable trios.
The problem for Neal is, most teams in the league have stellar top lines worthy of being keyed on.
But the fact is, while playing with the team’s best playmakers Wednesday Neal was more noticeable than ever. All told his line accounted for 14 of the Flames’ 39 shots. Backlund led the way with six and missed a wide-open net in the second period.
That also doesn’t include Neal’s nifty setup of Johnny Gaudreau that No. 13 rang off the post midway through the game.
Neal certainly earned a chance to see more ice time with the big guns, befitting his five-year, $28.75 million contract signed during the summer.
Notes and Newbies
Dillon Dube missed the trip as he goes through concussion protocol following the awkward hit Duncan Keith threw on him Saturday. It prompted the Flames to summon AHL tough guy Anthony Peluso from Stockton and he wasn’t half bad.
Injecting a physical presence the Flames have sorely lacked this season, Peluso threw his 225-pound frame around aplenty, rocking several Ducks on a night he didn’t look out of place in his 4:20 of ice time. Old school.
Austin Czarnik also drew in following a lengthy string of healthy scratches and showed plenty of rust as he was unable to bury the several good chances he had on the second power play unit, as well as Mark Jankowski’s fourth line.
Jankowski picked a fine time to score his first of the year – a pretty third period shorthanded snipe that tied the game 2-2 for less than half a minute.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Gaudreau recorded no shots on goal on a night that ended his five-game point streak – he was solid. Although not quite as stellar as Elias Lindholm, he was a threat all night long.
Gaudreau was slashed on the wrist by Rakell with 1:14 left to give the Flames a great chance to tie the game with a power play unit that accounted for a Tkachuk tip in in the first. However, it may have come at a price as Gaudreau was wincing considerably following the type of slash he’s been so accustomed to receiving over the years. We’ll see how the wrist is on Friday when the Flames reconvene for practice.
It had nothing to do with the game but the Chicago Blackhawks firing of Joel Quenneville struck a chord with Travis Hamonic, as the new Hawks coach is his former teammate, Jeremy Colliton.
Hamonic and Colliton played together on Long Island in 2011, where Hamonic said he saw leadership qualities in his teammate that helped Colliton in his meteoric rise up the coaching ranks.
"Great guy," said Hamonic, who is five-years younger than the 33-year-old Colliton.
"You could just tell he’d be a coach. I found out he was coaching over in Sweden a few years after I played with him and I wasn’t surprised. I knew a couple guys who played for him there and had success.
"I heard he got the job in (AHL) Rockford and wasn’t surprised either. He’s a pretty special person. It’s hard to pinpoint but he’s just one of those guys who carried himself in that manner."
UP NEXT: The Flames have a few days to enjoy the California sunshine before facing the L.A. Kings Saturday at Staples Center.