Pulled midway through the game after surrendering four goals, David Rittich paused as he walked towards the dressing room to headbutt a door.
It’s the kind of move the organization has mimicked of late, self-inflicting all sorts of pain to reach new lows Thursday.
A 6-1 loss to the last-placed Ottawa Senators wiped out any good feelings the Flames may have generated in Toronto the previous two outings, leaving the Flames with just one regulation win in their last eight games.
It marked the third time in six games the team’s starter was pulled from the game.
In that span, the Flames have scored just eight goals, finishing with only one goal in five of the six.
So much for the players’ belief that the team’s identity revolves around being a hard-checking team that can score.
Only seven teams in the league have scored fewer goals per game, which coach Geoff Ward and several players believe has plenty to do with the high rate of neutral zone turnovers costing them zone entries.
“The last little bit we’ve been having trouble getting into the offensive zone – that’s certainly going to be a factor,” said Ward, adding his team isn’t getting to the inside once in the zone.
“We missed the net an awful lot. That’s not the only night that has happened.”
This cub seems to be running out of answers these days.
Playing the second half of a back-to-back following their loss in Toronto Wednesday, the Flames trailed 2-0 after the first period before a Milan Lucic goal breathed life into the visitors two minutes into the second.
Five minutes later the Senators had scored two more, including an Erik Brannstrom slapper from outside the blueline that eluded Rittich and ultimately ended his otherwise impressive return to form of late.
It was a tough pill for Rittich to swallow after stopping 70 shots in a row against the Leafs before losing the game in overtime.
“After the fourth one it’s tough,” said Andersson, whose club showed very little pushback after that. “We played in their zone quite a bit and got some shots through and it just felt like every time we had a turnover or odd-man [rush] against they capitalized. We’ve got to stick together and believe in each other still and try to create more energy.”
And try not to make it so obvious that, after an admittedly bad goal, they don’t give up.
“Feels like it was deflating after the third goal, and especially the fourth goal [but] we can’t let a goal suck the life out of us the way it has recently,” said Lucic, whose club gave up two more in the third with Flames fourth-stringer Artyom Zagidulin making his NHL debut.
“We’ve got to be better. This one definitely is not a good feeling right now.”
Playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Flames were indeed showing it, admittedly not at their best following an emotional ending in Toronto less than 24 hours earlier.
Nonetheless, you can bet the noise calling for the coach to be fired, trades to be made and hell to pay will reach a feverish pitch Friday.
Well aware of that, Lucic wanted his thoughts known on where the blame should lie.
“This one is on us, it’s on the players,” said Lucic, a longtime supporter of Ward, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in Boston.
“The coaching staff hasn’t changed from last year and that was one of our strong points and when we started to move in the right direction, playing as a five man unit and for each other and sacrificing for each other. We need to find that again. That’s up to the players and no one else.”
Those who tuned in to see how the Tkachuk brothers would fare against one another left disappointed, as neither found the scoresheet despite generating ten shots and ten hits between them. Big Brady had nine of those hits.
“Anybody that thinks we’re going to fight is an idiot,” declared Matthew before the game, potentially costing the broadcast some viewers.
“I don’t know why people keep saying that each and every year. They obviously haven’t played against their brother in a sport ever.”
If you’re a Flames fan the most entertaining moment of the night was when the button on analyst Kelly Hrudey’s jacket was shown popping off to start the third period, causing the veteran broadcaster to laugh hysterically.
Flames fans will have to smile through the pain until Saturday when game two of this four-game series starts at 11 a.m. MT.
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