Surprisingly, no one booed Nazem Kadri in his first Calgary appearance since turning down a summertime trade to the Flames.
The question was whether they’d boo the Flames.
They didn’t, which doesn’t mean the city isn’t full of Flames fans as frustrated as the players.
What spared the lads from significant post-game derision was a late, third-period flurry that had the Flames pressing hard for an equalizer that never came in a 3-2 loss to Colorado on Tuesday.
It masked the fact that after giving up the first goal for the 16th time in 24 outings, the Flames then saw the Avs add to the lead later in the first with Andre Burakovsky’s second perfectly placed rocket of the evening.
Midway through the second it was, gulp, 3-0.
Morale is at a playoff low in Calgary these days, but even though the hosts lost for the fifth-straight time, no one kicked garbage cans, no one read the riot act and no one pointed fingers.
Somewhat surprisingly, the approach to their latest setback in a season full of them was measured, and lined with hope.
Not what fans want to hear.
Even Matthew Tkachuk, who shared some serious frustration two nights earlier in Las Vegas, took a more muted approach to their latest loss.
“We’re not happy with the way the results are going, but this was a better effort,” said Tkachuk, whose club takes its 4-8-1 road record to St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Buffalo starting Wednesday.
“I thought we were more engaged than other games, but it’s tough playing from behind all the time. We’ve got to change this because this is a very, very, very important road trip for us. We want to play better on the road.”
How can they possibly prevent the negativity of a furious fan base from creeping in?
“Just know we’re a good team, don’t make excuses, play for each other and believe in ourselves,” explained Tkachuk.
“It’s a tough road trip against some really tough teams, but we’re a tough team too and we have to believe that.”
Many believe that’s been part of the problem – the belief this team can get by on talent alone.
Granted, the engagement issue was addressed well by the Flames on Wednesday, but meant little once the Avs had built a 3-0 cushion.
“It’s physically exhausting, it’s mentally exhausting,” said Derek Ryan of leading the league in chasing the lead.
“You’re down on the bench. Before the game, we have a lot of energy and you’re pretty vibrant. All of a sudden they score one and two goals, it’s pretty tough to still have that energy. I thought we stuck to it well, as much as we can, but we have to start scoring the first goal of the game.”
Read into what you will, but Ryan’s line alongside Milan Lucic and call-up Dillon Dube was the Flames’ best of the night.
That says plenty about where the Flames are at.
The closest to boos from the thinned-out crowd was a series of “Looooch’s” aimed at one of the team’s lone bright spots in Tuesday’s defeat.
Following a near-miss in a goalmouth scrum late in the second, Lucic won a wall battle and dished it to Ryan, whose shot caromed fortuitously off a defenders’ stick and past Philippe Grubauer to end the Flames’ scoreless string of 167:44.
It was their first even-strength goal in 224:23 for a team sitting 29th in goals per game, down a full goal from last year when they sat second.
“I think the last two games we’ve managed to find some immediate chemistry between the three of us,” said Lucic, who registered six shots, but is still looking for his first goal as a Flame.
“We’ve just got to stick with it and the results will come. Especially for myself, it’s easy to get frustrated at this point. We just have to keep playing, being hard on the puck and make plays and it’s just a matter of time before they’ll go in.”
Replacing Sean Monahan on the top line with Mikael Backlund had no effect offensively, and only served to set into motion more line changes as the deficit widened.
Andrew Mangiapane, playing on a revamped line with Monahan and Elias Lindholm, got the Flames within one with four minutes left, when he corralled an Oliver Kylington point shot that hit him in the slot, backhanding it past Grubauer.
It set the stage for an intense push that ended with the Dome Groan that’s become all too familiar this year for the 10-11-3 Flames.
Johnny Gaudreau – the fans’ biggest whipping boy this season – was minus-2 with just one shot on goal.
Stockton call-up Zac Rinaldo did, in fact, inject energy with big hits in two of his first three shifts, finishing the night with four.
Alas, none of it mattered as the Flames continue losing.
Something the fanbase here is now starting to wonder if its something they need to start getting used to.