CALGARY – A few days ago, Sean Monahan was on ice and a very close witness and participant in the Johnny Gaudreau event – the person they called Johnny Hockey scored a hat-trick, and against the Winnipeg Jets who lead in the Western Conference, no less.
But on Saturday night, Monahan, the center of the Calgary Flames, hit us with a slightly different reality.
"It's hockey," he said with a flat face, after losing 3-2 overtime against the Vancouver Canucks who visited. "It's not easy to score."
Well, that's definitely not for Calgary on Saturdays – unless you count when they are short-handed. Yes, even though the Flames dominate the game part, and especially the beginning of the second period when it looks like Vancouver has short arms (they don't!) Calgary can only turn on the lights when a man goes down.
How do you explain it?
"I don't know," Monahan said. "Obviously PK is doing a good job."
Yeah, right, and if Calgary won the death penalty it would be the game story for this Fire. After a 4-1 win over Winnipeg, they managed to escape Saturday with one point, but it did not entertain much. And you really can't say with a straight face in the dressing room that Flames is now tied at the top of the Western Conference standings, even though the Jets have one match in hand.
"Better than nothing," said goalkeeper David Rittich, about one thing. "We have to get these two days, but it's better than nothing."
That is spirit.
Vancouver's first goal came from one of the usual suspects, when Brock Boeser held one past Rittich at the game of power. Flames replied back shortly afterwards in the second, when Mark Jankowski scored his fourth short goal of the season (he leads the league) and sixth overall. Give a sign of a burst of fire from jumbotron.
Flames thought they had managed 2-1 shortly after, and if it wasn't for the initial whistle – the referee thought the big Vancouver goalkeeper Jacob Markstrom (he was six feet six) had chip control, but it appeared and Mikal Backlund hit him at home and even celebrated temporarily Saddledome goes banana. But the goal was canceled due to the previous whistle.
"They are the best reference in the world, of course," said Flames defender Travis Hamonic. "You won't agree with all the calls, or most of them. It's something you have to fight for – there are two teams out there who might complain about references and things like that, so you will be on the good side of some call and you will be on the bad side, and that is the nature of the season and how it goes – but they certainly have a difficult job and they try to do their best. "
It is Hamonic that gives the Flames a real edge, about halfway through the second. He scored with two seconds remaining in the Canucks power game, leading a freak rush and finding the far corner. Then the DJ hit him with the beauty of MC Hammer, Can't Touch this, for his teammates to call Hammer. Nice touch. And, of course, more flames ignite.
But the party was short-lived. Even though Flames has a great chance in seconds, then it comes – you might guess it – Elias Petterson, to ruin the party. The sensation of the Swedish rookie tore its wings and completely laser one into the far corner. It hits the net and appears so fast that you wonder if it's coming in, but then you know it works, because … Petterson.
Rittich called it "a pretty good shot," which was a pretty good statement.
And while Calgary got one point because of the victory over the Jets, following a victory in early December, the end of the month was far less spectacular. A victory over Winnipeg ended a three-game losing streak.
The good news is, Flames has the chance to end 2018 on a winning note, with a New Year's Eve party planned to return on the Saddledome against San Jose, and if you ask coach Bill Peters, they will call in 2019 on the heels of a good performance.
"I think our start was very good," he said on Saturday. "… We skated much better tonight than we did in Winnipeg, and I hope we also skate much better on Monday."
If the Flames do that, then maybe hockey won't be too difficult, and the goals are also hard to come by.