Flames Thoughts: Calgary must stop bleeding after Vegas loss

Erik Haula tied the game late in the third period and seconds later Jonathan Marchessault scored the winning goal as the Vegas Golden Knights pulled off the comeback victory against the Calgary Flames.

The Calgary Flames blew a one-goal third period lead and had their season-long 11-game point streak snapped on Tuesday with a 4-2 loss to the Golden Knights in the first-ever game between the two teams at Scotiabank Saddledome.


Actually, 53 seconds. In the span of 10 seconds, a 2-1 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit for the Flames. The Golden Knights scored again, an insurance goal into an empty net, 43 seconds later. Game over.

Less than two minutes away from knocking off the Pacific Division and Western Conference-leading Golden Knights, extending their NHL-long point streak to 12 games (the Bruins’ 18-game point streak was snapped earlier on Tuesday) and moving into sole possession of second place in the division, a strange and stunning sequence of events left the Flames searching for answers.

It was a tough-to-swallow loss to their new division rival. Their first defeat in regulation time since Dec. 29 leaves them on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. What will be lost in the loss is that the Flames played well enough to win Tuesday’s game. It isn’t that the Flames lost to the Golden Knights – it’s HOW they lost.


The Flames have played in a lot of close games this season. In fact, 13 of their 25 wins have been by one goal. The Flames are an impressive 13-5-8 in games decided by a single goal in 2017-18.

Playing in a lot of one-goal games is a both a good thing and a bad thing. With parity at an all time high, there isn’t a lot to choose between most of the league’s 31 teams, so it’s important to know how to play in and how to win one-goal games. However, elite teams seem to be able to put teams away.

The Flames have had that killer instinct at times this season. They certainly seemed to have it at the tail end of their season-long seven-game winning streak, when they outscored the Lightning, Panthers and Hurricanes by a combined score of 13-4. During their current five-game losing streak, the Flames had the Jets, Sabres, Kings, Oilers and Golden Knights on the ropes, but weren’t able to land a knock-out punch in any of those games, despite having the lead in each contest.

Last Thursday, trailing their provincial rival 2-0 in the second period, the Oilers scored two goals in a span of 64 seconds to tie game, which they went on to win 4-3 in a shootout. It was more of the same against Vegas on Tuesday. The Flames played a good game against a good team, but left no room for error. When they made a couple of plays that they’d like to have back late in the third period, it cost them the game and an important pair of points.



The Golden Knights we’re not at their best on Tuesday night. They were still pretty darn good, especially at forward. Their defence was pretty solid, too.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who came into the game with the second-best goals against average and save percentage in the NHL this season, fought the puck at times. Fleury’s rebound control wasn’t great, and the Flames could have tested the Golden Knights goalie more by putting more pucks on net.

While the Flames did manage a respectable 33 shots on goal in the game, they had 78 shot attempts, including a whopping 23 missed shots. While the Golden Knights deserve some credit for blocking 22 shots, the Flames could have created some secondary scoring chances by hitting the net more often. With only eight goals for in their last five games, getting back to basics by putting more pucks on net and sending more bodies to their opponent’s net, which is sometimes easier said than done, could and should help.



Prior to Tuesday’s setback, the Flames had lost four straight games in extra time but had also picked up at least a point in 11 consecutive contests. While the Flames didn’t play particularly well in those games between their five-day break and the all-star break, it was difficult to be overly critical of a team that had put 18 of a possible 22 points in the bank since Dec. 31.

The funny thing is the Flames actually played better against the Golden Knights than they did in any of their previous four games. With their seven-game winning streak and, to a lesser extent, 11-game point streaks, the Flames put themselves in a pretty good position – in a playoff spot going into the NHL’s all-star break. Things suddenly feel different. The Flames, who have lost five in a row for the first time this season, are now chasing the playoff pack in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.

Is it time to press the panic button? Absolutely not. With where they’re at in the standings and in their schedule, the key to qualifying for post-season play for the third time in four seasons is avoiding long losing streaks. It doesn’t get any easier for the Flames. Two nights after losing to the top team in the Western Conference, they play the only team in the league ahead of the Golden Knights in the overall standings, the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning.

Still, the Flames can’t afford to keep losing, especially at home, where they’re now 12-12-3 in 27 games this season. The Flames tend to play well in games against fast teams, like they did in a 5-1 win in Tampa on Jan. 11. Stopping the bleeding by sweeping their season series versus the Lightning would be huge.

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