Flames forward James Neal looked around at an unfamiliar part of a building he got to know very well last season and noted the oddity of the situation.
“Everything just feels kind of backward out there,” the original member of the Golden Knights said in the visitors’ locker room after his new team suffered a 2-0 loss at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night. “It’s hard to explain unless you go through it.
“When you change teams and you go back, you’re going in the wrong way and you’re doing all the things that you’re not used to, especially here. I’ve never even been in this room before. I’ve never come in this way before, so it’s tough.”
Neal got acquainted with his former teammates Monday in Calgary as the Flames throttled the Knights 7-2, but he admitted the return to the arena where he was part of a historic Western Conference championship team was emotional.
“There’s just great memories here,” he said. “Playing here last year is just one of those things you never forget. Just your teammates and everything that went on with the team and the city.
”It was quite a run we had. Special bond with the guys, and it was emotional coming back, for sure. It was really cool (to see the Neal jerseys). I loved the signs from some of the kids in warmups, and the fans were great. I have a lot of great friends here. Nothing but great memories.”
The outcome wasn’t exactly what Neal had hoped as his Flames were shut out. Neal said they expected a big effort from the Knights, and they got it.
There was also an increase in chatter and physicality from Monday’s game, according to Neal.
“A little bit of back-and-forth, for sure. It’s still hockey. You’ve got to be physical a little bit,” he said. “They were pretty quiet in Calgary, but I guess they can give it to me tonight. It’s always nice to see them. They have a great group over there. A lot of great friends still.”
Neal credited the Knights with coming out of the locker room faster in the rematch and thought Marc-Andre Fleury was a difference-maker as he recorded his fourth shutout of the season.
The change of venue was also a factor in the different outcome.
“It’s a tough building to play in. I got a first-hand taste of it tonight,” he said “This place was rocking like always. It’s got to be the best rink in the league. The fans are unbelievable. I loved playing here again.”
Daniel Carr played on the third line with Ryan Carpenter and Tomas Nosek in his Knights’ debut, a day after he was recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League.
He was one of the last cuts in training camp but also had experience in the building after playing the Knights once last year as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s pretty wild in here,” Carr said of the atmosphere. “I was on the wrong side of it once last year. You’re out there and the whole night this place is bumping. It’s pretty cool. The fans are so supportive and it’s a lot of fun.”
He was tied for the team lead in assists and was second on the Wolves with nine goals.
“I think (my job here) is to try to make plays and be responsible, but try to create some offense,” Carr, 27, said. “That’s a big part of my game to go to the dirty areas and try to get pucks to the net and try to make plays when they’re there to be made.”
Carr didn’t record a point in his debut, but Gerard Gallant liked what he saw.
“I thought he did a good job,” the coach said. “He worked hard and competed hard and he got pucks out. That line had a couple real good shifts in the offensive zone, too. They did their jobs real well, and I thought he skated good.”
Keep it clean
The penalty kill has been good most of the season for the Knights, but it struggled in giving up three goals in Calgary on Monday.
The unit solved the problem Friday by not allowing the Flames much of a chance to get their power play going.
The Knights allowed one power play, equaling a single-game best this season.