Toronto Maple Leafs' Ben Ondrus (left) fights with Calgary Flames' Warren Peters during second period NHL action in Toronto, on Saturday March 14, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO - There was no shortage of people willing to accept some blame after the Calgary Flames finished up a seven-game road trip with another disappointing result.
Coach Mike Keenan said he shouldn't have started Miikka Kiprusoff in net. Defenceman Robyn Regehr said he could have provided more leadership on the blue-line. And captain Jarome Iginla said he might have had one more goal in him to force overtime.
It all added up to an 8-6 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Even though the Northwest Division leaders finished their season-long road trip with a 3-4 record, Keenan hopes that they have learned a valuable lesson during the past two weeks.
"That is probably good for our team to go through in terms of learning what it takes to have the mental discipline," he said. "To be able to sustain good levels of play. There's many teams in the Western Conference that have long extended road trips and the ones that are very, very successful have learned how to deal with the demands of travel.
"We're trying to learn that as well. We didn't succeed on this road trip."
If there's one player who returns to Alberta with his head held high, it's Olli Jokinen. The Finnish centre had three goals and two assists against the Maple Leafs on Saturday - giving him 10 points (8-2) in six games since being acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline.
Jokinen will play his first home game at Pengrowth Saddledome on Wednesday night and deserves a warm reception from the "Sea of Red."
"He's really flying," said Iginla.
The Flames will need some better defence and goaltending to get back to winning consistently. They allowed 27 goals in the final five games of their road trip.
An energized Toronto team seemed to give them fits on a night where the puck was going in from everywhere.
Mikhail Grabovski, with two, Jeff Finger, Jason Blake, Jeff Hamilton, John Mitchell, Nikolai Kulemin and Jamal Mayers had goals for the Maple Leafs (28-29-13).
It was the kind of game Toronto coach Ron Wilson expected from the Flames.
"That's a really good team that was in the seventh game of a seven-game road trip and 90 per cent of the time, what happened tonight happens to that team on the seventh game of a road trip," he said.
Jokinen, with three, Dion Phaneuf, Curtis Glencross and Iginla replied for the Flames (40-23-6).
The real back-breaker was Kulemin's goal at 1:19 of the third period. That put the Maple Leafs ahead 6-4 and prompted Keenan to replace Kiprusoff with backup Curtis McElhinney.
While the loss was far from Kiprusoff's fault alone, Calgary needed more than 16 saves on 22 shots. Keenan, who is known for being impatient with goalies, had actually considered replacing him earlier in the game.
In hindsight, he wouldn't have played him at all.
"He'd like to have a better game I'm sure but I think it was probably my fault for even playing him tonight because of what he had to go through and the work he had last game (in Detroit)," said Keenan. "I take full credit for probably starting the wrong goaltender."
The Flames nearly pulled off another big comeback, just as they did during Thursday's win at Joe Louis Arena.
They were down 7-4 until Jokinen set up Iginla for a one-time goal at 10:44 of the third period and finished off his hat trick at 17:41. Several enthusiastic Flames fans threw hats on the ice and the game pushed towards a dramatic finish.
Grabovski dashed any hope for a comeback by scoring into an empty net with 59 seconds left. It was close.
"It wasn't that we didn't have an effort," said Iginla. "We were working. We just didn't get it done tonight for whatever reason.
"I thought right until the end we were going to find a way."
If they want to look back where things went wrong, they can start with the first period. The Maple Leafs raced out to a 3-0 lead with goals 2:25 apart and set the tone for a wild offensive show.
That's happened a little too much lately for the Flames' liking.
"I don't think we've been doing the job in our zone," said Regehr. "Way too many good chances, odd-man rushes against. We all have to play better, but especially a guy like myself.
"I consider myself part of the leadership group and I just haven't been playing very well. So that's got to change."
They'll have plenty of practice time before hosting the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night. But with the playoffs fast approaching, they best get things sorted out soon.
"Now we go home and we've got to win hockey games down the stretch," said Phaneuf.
Notes: Kiprusoff earned his third assist of the season ... Alexei Ponikarovsky picked up his 200th NHL point with an assist on Finger's goal ... Recent AHL callups Ben Ondrus and Warren Peters had a spirited fight in the second period ... Prior to the game, the Leafs signed forward Chris DiDomenico to a three-year, entry-level contract ... Attendance was 19,356.
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