They may lead the Northwest Division, but nothing about the Flames’ recent loss to Toronto says anything about winning. In an exciting game Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the Flames fell 8-6 in a result that Leaf coach Ron Wilson says he expected.
“What happened tonight (often) happens to that team on the seventh game of a road trip,” he said.
Regardless, the Flames are going to have to step up their game if they expect to get back to their winning ways. In the final five games of their seven-game road trip, the team let in 27 goals, resulting in a 3-4 record, including losses to two of the worst teams in the league.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, currently sitting in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, capitalized on the Flames’ sloppy play and improved their March record to 3-4.
The Leafs were the first ones out of the gate, scoring two power play goals in the first 10 minutes to take an early 3-0 lead. Midway through the first period, the Flames answered with their own power play goals, tying things up 3-3 at close of the first period.
Toronto went on to score twice in the second period, although a late period power-play goal from Olli Jokinen kept the Flames in contention, with Toronto leading 5-4 at the start of the third. Maple Leaf Nikolai Kulemin scored at 1:19 in the third period, prompting Calgary coach Mike Keenan to pull Miikka Kiprusoff from between the posts and replace him with backup goalie Curtis McElhinney.
Despite the switch-up, the Leafs would lead for the rest of the game, though Calgary did come close to staging another miracle comeback similar to their shootout win on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. It was Jokinen’s goal late in the third period that brought the score to 7-6.
However, any overtime hopes were dashed when Leaf centre Mikhail Grabovski scored an empty netter with less than a minute left, securing an 8-6 win for the home team.
Grabovski led the Leafs’ scoring with two goals, while six of his teammates picked up points, with Jeff Finger, Jason Blake, Jeff Hamilton, John Mitchell, Nikolai Kulemin, and Jamal Mayers all scoring against the Flames.
Jokinen was the standout of the Calgary side, with three goals and two assists. Captain Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, and Curtis Glencross also scored for the Flames.
The Leafs travel to Tampa Bay for a St. Patty’s day matchup against the Lightning on Tuesday, while the Flames host St. Louis on Friday at the Pengrowth Saddledome.