Flames’ playoff aspirations fading after faceplant loss at home

Calgary started out hot in the second but the Blues rallied back down two goals and won it with less than 48 seconds in regulation when Brandon Saad completed the comeback.

CALGARY – It’s starting to get awfully hard to believe the Calgary Flames are capable of staying in the playoff race much longer.

If they’re looking to prove otherwise, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

Turning a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 faceplant against one of their closest playoff rivals Tuesday, the Flames are once again mired in a three-game losing skid at a crucial juncture in their season.

“We’re in a stretch now where we have to stop the bleeding at home here,” said coach Ryan Huska.

“We’ve dropped three in a row at home. 

“So, that’s not something that’s okay.

“We have two more games here at home before the (all-star) break and we have to make sure they’re the most important games.”

Sometimes it’s how you lose that is the most troubling.

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Between their horrifically slow start, and a catastrophic finish, the Flames actually found themselves up 3-1 against a Blues club that entered the game one point back in a tight wild card race.

To get there, MacKenzie Weegar, Noah Hanifin and Yegor Sharangovich teamed up with a red-hot Jacob Markstrom to have the lads feeling comfortable just before the second intermission.

Too comfortable apparently.

With three minutes left in the frame, the Flames set up to start a power play that saw Elias Lindholm win the draw back to Weegar.  

But when the veteran blueliner fumbled a peewee move at the blue line, Brayden Schenn easily scooped up the puck and took it the length of the ice for his first career shorty.

Game back on.

“That’s just a bulls— play by me,” said Weegar of the fourth breakaway his team gave up on a night chock full of Flames’ awareness issues.

“As an older guy and a leader – even as a younger guy – it’s so unacceptable that I make a play like that on a power play with not a lot of time on the clock.

“It would be a completely different game going into that third period.”

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Instead, it set the table for Jordan Kyrou to tie it early in the third and Brandon Saad to win it with 48 seconds remaining with a shot from inside the blueline that caromed off Jordan Oesterle and in off the post.

None of it was on Markstrom, whose club could have been down three or more in the opening ten minutes. 

Teams capable of pushing for playoff spots don’t play host to a team they’re battling with by opening slow, and peppering their game with mental lapses.  

“We wanted to play a certain way and we played the opposite way the first 10 minutes,” said Huska, admitting he was troubled by their start.

“There are some plays I don’t think we had enough composure when we needed to have it later in the game.

“Once we got ourselves in that 3-1 position we were doing some good things, and then we gave them goals from there.

“The shorthanded one was a tough one, and their third goal was even tougher.”

The inconsistency of Huska’s squad has them back to .500, thanks to a 1-3 start to a six-game homestand that wraps up with Johnny’s Blue Jackets in town Thursday and the Bedard-less Blackhawks here Saturday.  

“They’re huge games for us,” said Hanifin.

“We’ve got to win those two games before the break to put ourselves in a better position before we come out of the break on that road trip.”

What awaits after the break is an eastern swing through Boston and the three New York-area teams.

By then the Flames’ three-way tie for fifth in the wild card race could easily see them in eighth, ahead of only the Ducks, Hawks and Sharks.

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“It’s tough, we knew what was at stake tonight, and makes it an even harder position that we’re in now,” said Weegar, whose club was leapfrogged in the standings by St. Louis to sit four points back of Nashville’s playoff spot with three teams in between with games in hand.

“There were a lot of things in our game that were not us. 

“I thought we left that play in October and November.”

Funny he mentions that, as that was the first sign that this season’s playoff hopes were starting to fade.

That possibility is starting to become even clearer now.

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