CALGARY, ALBERTA – Based on how deftly Flames goalie Mike Smith was scooping up dump-ins off the boards, coach Bruce Boudreau knew the netminder was locked in against the Wild.
But Smith’s ability to exit the crease to handle the puck wasn’t the only aspect of his play that frustrated the Wild. Players also couldn’t get pucks by Smith when he did stay in his net, and that resulted in the Wild’s first shutout of the season — a 2-0 loss to the Flames on Thursday night in front of 17,690 at Scotiabank Saddledome, the team’s seventh setback in its past 11 outings.
“He was good tonight,” Boudreau said of Smith. “Boy, when he’s on, he’s really on.”
Smith’s 31-save performance was strong, but the Wild didn’t help its cause of maneuvering around his puck-handling with its play up ice.
Rushes fizzled in the neutral zone amid a bevy of turnovers and poor decision making that undermined how much the Wild was battling in its own zone to limit a high-powered offense such as Calgary’s to only 20 shots.
“It was awful,” Boudreau said. “Our management of the puck was nothing the way it’s been in games even if we’ve lost. That’s a bone of contention that we’ll have to fix or we won’t be successful.”
Center Elias Lindholm was responsible for both Flames goals, and he actually scored another in the first period.
But the goal was waved off after the Wild issued a coach’s challenge to determine if the sequence was offside, its first successful challenge this season in four tries.
In the second period, though, Lindholm scored a goal that stuck.
After defenseman Ryan Suter got caught pinching, Lindholm buried a 2-on-1 rush by Calgary 50 seconds into the period after accepting a dish from winger Johnny Gaudreau.
The Wild had chances to erase that deficit on the power play, but it blanked on all five looks and Smith was a major reason why. During one opportunity late in the second, he made two key stops on defenseman Matt Dumba.
The Wild’s penalty killers fared better, surviving the Flames’ two power plays.
But the team didn’t have an answer for Lindholm.
He gave Calgary an important insurance tally only 1:13 into the third, skating unmarked to the net as the trailer on the play to slide a five-hole shot on backup Alex Stalock — who secured 18 saves in his 100th career game.
The Wild finished the game without captain Mikko Koivu, who left after getting tripped by Giordano in the third.
“[Giordano] stuck his leg out pretty good,” said Boudreau, who didn’t have an update on Koivu’s status immediately after the game.
Calgary also ended the game shorthanded, as winger Ryan Lomberg was issued a two-minute instigator penalty, five-minute major and 10-minute game misconduct for jumping Dumba in the final minute after he leveled center Mikael Backlund with a heavy check.
A string of infractions such as Lomberg received is supposed to result in a one-game suspension and $10,000 fine for his coach, according to the NHL rule book, although the league might rescind the suspension after a review.
“The guy was facing [Dumba],” Boudreau said. “He had his head down a little bit. It was a good hockey hit to me. [Lomberg] comes flying off the bench. I don’t know if he was sent out or not because he’s certainly not playing the last minute-and-a-half of the game no matter what the score is. We’ll have to let the NHL make a decision on that.”