ST. LOUIS — Big-bucks signing James Neal finally found the net for the Calgary Flames.
Always start with the good news first, am I right?
There wasn’t a whole bunch of that for the Flames in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.
Although Neal opened the scoring in the so-called Show-Me State, a welcome sight for those wondering what the heck was up with the prized (and pricy) free-agent addition, it was all Blues both before and after.
They picked on Calgary’s inexperienced third pairing, with rookies Rasmus Andersson and Juuso Valimaki — now with 17 big-league appearances between them — both having a rough night.
They probably left Flames masked man Mike Smith second-guessing his request to start. Smith was hoping to stay in a groove after a 43-save shutout in Nashville but was instead yanked after 40 minutes in the encore, shelled for five goals on 24 attempts.
The Blues also caused some pain for superstar left-winger Johnny Gaudreau. On a second-period sequence, he was hacked on the hand by Brayden Schenn, then bulldozed by Alexander Steen.
They, thankfully, seemed to step off the gas in the third, allowing the Flames to put a bit of shine on the final scoreline with goals by Derek Ryan — also his first in Calgary’s colours — and Mikael Backlund.
Many of the fans at Enterprise Center headed home without their lids after a three-snipe night by David Perron.
Neal was mostly a non-factor in his first three twirls in the Flaming C, but Thursday’s tally should be a confidence-booster for a guy who wasn’t expecting to start the season on the third line.
The 31-year-old Neal has made a career of lighting the lamp, which is why the Saddledome brass offered up a five-year, US$28.75-million deal.
Of his 264 career counters, this one didn’t come with the highest degree of difficulty.
Flames left-winger Sam Bennett lost the handle as he beelined toward the net, but he managed to corral the puck before it could squirt to the corner and slid a pass to ‘The Real Deal’ for a no-doubter.
Just a dozen seconds later, though, Steen equalized with a rip inside the post on Smith’s glove-side.
Andersson, one of the two kids on Calgary’s third defence pairing, was pestered into a giveaway in his own zone that resulted in Perron’s go-ahead goal. (There’s enough blame to go around — first-line centre Sean Monahan should have had his stick on …read more