The first period of tonight’s game was enough to whip any Flames fan in to a frenzy. They came out fast, and strong and looking like a brand new team. For 20 minutes, they absolutely dominated the San Jose Sharks on both ends of the ice and ended the period with a 1-0 lead. It gave fans hope that the old ways were gone and that the team would play differently under Bob Hartley. But that was only for the first period.
The Sharks hung in there, thanks to the amazing by the play of goaltender, Antti Niemi, who came up with several big stops in the opening 20 minutes. Then they adjusted their game and took advantage of holes in the Flames play during the second period. The Sharks scored 3 times in just over 4 minutes and took a commanding 3-1 lead into the dressing room after two. Patrick Marleau scored two goals, including a beauty on a feed from Joe Thornton to tie the game, and Martin Havlat added the other.
The third period included a lot of back-and-forth play, with both teams having their chances, but the Sharks were the only team to find the back of the net. As the game was winding down, Dan Boyle beat Miikka Kiprusoff with a powerplay slap shot that deflected off Steve Bégin’s leg, to make it a 4-1 final.
Despite flashes of the type of play that will be necessary to both make the playoffs, and have a chance at playoff success, the Flames couldn’t muster enough to win their home-opener. They were frustrated by solid positional play from the Sharks who didn’t give them much space to operate on the ice. When they did get open, The Flames couldn’t get the puck past Niemi, who played a very solid game.
The Flames will have a chance to reset the start of their season tomorrow night at home, when the Anaheim Ducks come to town.