In a bizarre twist, Flames' lack of trademark discipline halts streak at 10

J.T. Miller scored twice and added two assists as the Vancouver Canucks hammered the Flames 7-1 to snap Calgary’s ten-game win streak.

The only streak the Calgary Flames were able to extend Thursday was the one to the penalty box.

Four-straight penalties against Vancouver led to a trio of power-play goals that turned an early goaltender’s duel into a 7-1 pounding administered by the host Canucks.

In a bizarre twist of fate for a Flames club that entered the evening with a franchise-high, ten-game winning streak, everything that has gone right for the team went wrong at Rogers Arena.

Starting with discipline.

And penalty killing.

And stinginess.

All have been hallmarks of the club over a run that has seen the Flames allow just 15 goals in a ten-game span that dated back to a 1-0 win over the Canucks on Jan. 29.

On Thursday they allowed almost half of that number.

The payback was steep as the mentor, Jacob Markstrom, lost to his Canucks understudy, Thatcher Demko.

Full marks to Demko who made several stellar saves in the first period of a scoreless game that could have gone either way until the parade to the penalty box allowed Elias Pettersson to score the first of three power-play goals in a nightmarish second period that finished with the hosts up 5-0.

Perhaps mercifully, Markstrom was only in net for three, as a dislodged skate blade of his could not be fixed on the bench, prompting a forced goalie change that saw Dan Vladar enter for the final two minutes of the period.

“His blade came out and they couldn’t get the other one back in,” said a surprisingly upbeat Darryl Sutter, before breaking into a grin.

“He didn’t have a skate. He would have had to go out there with a rubber boot.”

Without the benefit of a warmup, the backup allowed two goals in 73 seconds, including a penalty shot awarded to J.T. Miller after Rasmus Andersson closed his hand on the puck while in the crease. 

Things got even more frustrating for the visitors in the third, when Vladar was left in for a game the Flames could easily have lost 10-0 if not for a trio of Canucks shots that rang off the crossbar.

A late short-handed goal by Pettersson helped the Canucks make franchise history of their own with four varieties of goals, including the power play, short-handed, even strength and a penalty shot. 

Yes, the hottest team in the NHL was suddenly that bad, leaving Sutter mumbling to himself and screaming at officials.

A good chunk of the bench spent the final five minutes jawing at the referees, whose night was almost as shaky as the Flames.  

One can only imagine the coach’s decibel level in the dressing room, as he’d been warning the team it was starting to slip over its last few wins.

The faceplant all started because of the type of penalty problems this team has done well to avoid this season.

Maybe now they’ll remember why.

The Flames penalty-killing unit, which entered the game ranked third in the league thanks to a ten-game spree that had seen them kill off 24 of 25, was victimized on three of the Canucks’ seven man advantages.

A season-high for an ordinarily stellar group of penalty killers.

“Our penalty killers weren’t very good tonight,” said Sutter.

“Our defence, as a group, was borderline awful. That reflected in our penalty killing.”

Demonstrating just how impactful those goals were, consider the fact the Flames actually edged the Canucks 10-6 in high danger scoring chances while at 5-on-5.

Playing in front of Vancouver fans for the first time as Flames, it wasn’t the type of return former Canucks Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson and Tyler Toffoli had hoped for. 

Suffice it to say, the eight-game goal-scoring binge Elias Lindholm was on is over, despite the fact one of his six shots on goal almost put the Flames up 1-0 in the first.

Somewhere over the Rockies on the way home you can bet the Flames had already shaken this one off, as it was the club’s first blemish in almost a month.

No shame there.

Pettersson’s goal marked the first deficit the Flames faced in almost six hours of hockey. 

Prior to that, Blake Coleman and Andrew Mangiapane were stopped on first-period breakaways that could have changed the complexion of the game.

“I thought 5-on-5 the first two periods were really good,” said Sutter, summing up the night.

“We took two dumb penalties and it cost us, and missed probably two or three close-to-breakaways, or grade A’s, in the first period. They scored three power-play goals and a penalty shot goal after two periods, so I don’t get very excited about it.”

Sure, this was an embarrassing evening, salvaged only by Andrew Mangiapane’s late goal to break Demko’s shutout.

But they’ve ignited a fan base that has seen the team’s surge put them four up on Vegas atop the Pacific division, sparking conversation around whether the team is truly amongst the league’s top contenders.

We’ll hold that thought for a day.

They now return home for a chance to tie the team record for consecutive home wins at 11 Saturday against the Wild, putting their ability to put games behind them to the test once again.

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