It was Dion Phaneuf night in Calgary Thursday, but the Toronto Maple Leafs captain wanted to make one thing clear.
"It wasn't me against the Calgary Flames," said Phaneuf, in the aftermath of a discouraging 5-2 loss. "We weren't even close to where we had to be tonight. The bottom line is they beat us in every area of the rink in that second period - and they kept coming. We were a little tentative and they played a full 60 minutes. Give them credit."
Phaneuf had a less-than-memorable outing in his first game back against his ex-team, but he wasn't alone either. The Leafs gave up three goals in a 57-second span of the second period that put Calgary ahead to stay.
Gone In 60 Seconds - not just a heist movie, but what happens when you let your concentration lapse against an equally desperate team such as Calgary.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson put Phaneuf in the starting lineup, meaning that nine seconds in, or when he first touched the puck, Phaneuf heard it from the boo-birds in the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Phaneuf was hopeful that there'd be a mixture of support thrown in with the inevitable jeers - and there might have been a few. After all, Leaf fans were scattered throughout the building, diluting what is, on most nights, largely a sea of red jerseys.
But if they were cheering him on, they were largely drowned out by the hometown crowd who watched a collection of Flames reclamation projects - led by Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen - lead the way to victory.
In fact, two of the players that came Calgary's way in the Phaneuf deal, Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman, also hit the score sheet and made meaningful contributions to the win. Stajan made a clever backhand to set up Tanguay for the second-period, go-ahead goal that put Calgary ahead to stay, the first in that rapid-dash sequence that ultimately chased Leafs starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Jonas Gustavsson played the third period for Toronto, marking the second consecutive game in which the Flames' usual pop-gun attack chased the starting goaltender.
Hagman greeted Gustavsson with a third-period power-play goal, the second of the night that came with the Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski in the penalty box. Grabovski managed a measure of redemption with a third-period goal but it was mostly window dressing at that stage.
Phaneuf didn't have an especially memorable night, although that may in part have been as a result of the physical and emotional strain of the past 48 hours. After scoring his first goal of the season two nights ago in Edmonton, Phaneuf flew across the country to Prince Edward Island to attend his grandmother's funeral - and then all the way back to play Thursday night's game.
In fact, Phaneuf pulled down former teammate Jarome Iginla on a breakaway with 1 minute 31 seconds to go, but Iginla failed to capitalize on the ensuing penalty shot, Gustavsson making the save.
Afterward, Phaneuf said he wasn't bothered by the booing, suggesting that it was a fact of life in professional sports.
"They're passionate fans here," he said. "I played here. I know they're passionate. It was a lively building. They have all the rights in the world to boo. I feel when I played here, I played hard every night. There were a lot of nights, if not all of them, that they were cheering for me. I have no hard feelings about that at all. Nothing personal."
Ultimately, the game's back story beyond Phaneuf's return was the battle between two playoff also-rans, both of whom stressed the need to start putting victories together consistently in order to get back in the race.
It was Calgary that persevered on that level, winning back-to-back for the first time since Oct. 26. The Leafs, meanwhile, saw a modest two-game win streak come to an end.
"It's a disappointing loss for our team," said Phaneuf. "We're fighting for our lives to stay in the playoff race. To lose a game like that, it's not acceptable."
As disappointing as it was for Phaneuf, it was heartening for Stajan, who was back in the Flames line-up after sitting out the previous two as a healthy scratch.
Stajan missed a golden opportunity to end a grim one-goal-in-43-games scoring drought when Grabovski bailed out his goaltender, but he did make a smart play on the Tanguay goal.
"I don't know if I could have done anything differently," said Stajan of his near miss. "I just think Grabovski swung his stick. It must have hit his stick because I don't think I would miss that too many times. That's just the way the season's going for me. We won the game and move forward. If we give the same effort the next game, the goals will come."
As for the possible distraction of all the Phaneuf hype, Stajan thought it actually worked in Calgary's favour.
"I don't think you block it out," he said. "It's all we heard about for the last week. It made the game exciting. You felt the intensity and the electricity in the crowd. It was nice to see the building rocking like that. Maybe a few too many Leaf fans, but it always is when they come out west. It's nice to win that game. It was a good feeling."