Playoffs could be in question as Flames’ goalless drought continues

Marc-Andre Fleury picked up a shutout and William Karlsson scored twice as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Calgary Flames 6-0.

Humbled in Glendale and humiliated in Vegas (again), the Calgary Flames return home from a two-game trip with the same number of points as they had goals.

Zero.

One day after being shut out 3-0 by the Arizona Coyotes, the Flames crapped out again in Vegas, losing 6-0 Sunday to a Golden Knights team that entered the game struggling to score goals.

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That’s four losses in a row for a Calgary club with just three goals in that span.

These Calgary Flames just can’t score.

One year after finishing second in the league averaging 3.52 goals a game, the Flames sit 28th, almost a full goal less at 2.60 a game.

It’s no secret who the team’s leading culprits are, as former 30-goal men Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are in well-documented slides.

But this is a team-wide issue.

So far this year there are only two offensive stars – Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm – and a boatload of passengers.

It’s anyone’s guess how a roster almost identical to the one they rode to the top of the Western Conference standings last year can suddenly be so anemic.

It’s a problem that now has the Flames with a 10-10-3 record and 4-8-1 on the road — a record that will have to improve if these lads are to be a playoff team.

Yes, their start has been so full of inconsistency, the talk has turned from this being a season of playoff atonement to a season in which the playoffs could be in serious question.

It’s early, yes.

But the signs are troubling.

Granted, the Flames have long rolled snake eyes in Vegas, where they’ve been outscored 27-6 in six appearances there, all losses.

That streak was never in jeopardy Sunday as the Golden Knights scored the first goal midway through the first period and never looked back.

Cam Talbot and the Flames entered the third period down just 2-0, but the floodgates opened in the third on a night that once again saw the Flames offence easily turned away.

Full marks to Marc-Andre Fleury for a 34-save shutout, but the shot totals were a tad flattering for a Flames team that poses very little threat to anyone these days.

No, despite the score, this wasn’t on Talbot. At all.

The backup, who continues to draw the toughest assignments imaginable, had to make four good saves in the opening 75 seconds of a game clearly destined to end the Knights’ five-game losing skid.

It marked the fourth time in six starts Talbot played in the second half of back-to-backs, all against formidable opponents in tough barns.

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THE TAKEAWAY

Engagement continues to be a significant issue with head coach Bill Peters’ club.

Oh sure, there were a few post-whistle scrums that made it appears for brief spurts like his players were into it.

Alas, on a night Ryan Reaves absolutely ran over the Flames with seven hits and plenty of disrespect in between whistles, there was no answer for his actions.

Even a questionable hit by Reaves in the third that forced Oliver Kylington to leave the game for a brief spell drew little more than a conversation by Milan Lucic, and some jawing from Tkachuk.

By that point it would have been impossible for anyone to goad Reaves into a fight.

But earlier in the night when he was having his way with everyone, Lucic would have been wise to engage Reaves in a tussle for the first time in their careers.

Politically and on the ice, push back is in high demand in Cowtown.

Andrew Mangiapane delivered a significant crosscheck to former Flames tough guy Deryk Engelland out of frustration and wasn’t backing down as officials intervened.

But few others showed similar vigor.

Lucic was victimized by what looked awfully close to a slew-foot delivered by William Carrier as part of a big hit, yet Lucic did little.

It was just a tiny insight into the lack of engagement this team seems to possess these days.

It’s starting to become apparent the large number of empty seats at the Saddledome these days has more to do with just the economy.

Fans are having a hard time buying into this bunch, especially with every game in which they don’t appear to be buying in either.

QUICK HITS

• Travis Hamonic left the game midway through the second period with an apparent ailment and did not return, leaving the Flames with just five blueliners.

• The Flames gave up the first goal of the game for the 15th time in 23 outings this season, prompting them to have to chase once again.

• All but three Flames had shots on goal in the game. All but four Golden Knights hit the net.

• Dillon Dube was recalled by the Flames Sunday and placed in the lineup. Sam Bennett was scratched from the game and Alan Quine was sent back to Stockton where Dube has been a point-a-game player this season.

• Clearly NHL statisticians in Vegas are still learning the game as the Knights were credited with just one turnover all night, while the Flames had seven.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Flames will host Colorado on Tuesday before embarking on a four-game road trip.

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