CALGARY – It was the comeuppance Bill Peters warned about.
You half expected the Calgary Flames coach to open his post-game presser with an emphatic, “I told ya so.”
After grousing for the bulk of his team’s five-game winning streak about defensive lapses, Peters’ club finally fell short of the type of late heroics that have become their hallmark.
On this night it was a world-class shot by Jack Eichel in overtime that had the final say in a 4-3 Buffalo win over a Flames team that hadn’t lost at home in weeks.
Peters chose to look largely at the positives of a game that saw the Flames erase a third-period deficit and surrender only two shots in the process.
However, a pair of glaring giveaways that led to Sabres goals weren’t lost on captain Mark Giordano, whose team knew full well there’d be a wake-up call of sorts if they didn’t tighten things up.
“I thought we got a little bit pretty where we were turning over a few pucks in the neutral in the second,” said Giordano of plays that led to an Evan Rodriguez breakaway goal and one of many great chances by Eichel.
“We weren’t as bad as we’ve been in past games, but they capitalized on some of their looks and they get the win.
If we would have won in overtime it would have masked things again, but we’ll work on things. We have a big back-to-back coming up.”
Indeed they do.
In the midst of an otherwise pristine, nine-game slate in which the Flames face only one playoff team, the lads host Detroit Friday before a visit to Edmonton the next night.
Gaudreau beat McDavid to 70 points by minutes early in the evening as part of a two-point outing that was his 22nd multi-point game of the season.
You read that right.
Yet, despite extending his point streak to nine games, Gaudreau likely didn’t sleep very well after he balked on a 3-on-1 in overtime that saw him run out of real estate before attempting an ill-fated pass in front of the net.
Seconds later Eichel ended it by putting a sweet move on Giordano and beating Rittich short-side.
“I think we held onto it a little too long at times and when there was not a play to be made we tried to force some plays instead of taking what was given,” said Peters, whose Flames still lead the conference.
“We turned it over a little more than we would have liked for sure and it got behind us, but we did a lot of good things.”
Like getting a point, giving the Flames an 8-1-2 record of late.
Rittich also likely lost sleep as an otherwise solid outing ended with him allowing goals on both Buffalo shots in the third and the only shot in overtime.
The affair was tied 1-1 going into the third before the struggling Sabres kept pace with the league’s third-period whiz kids.
Less than a minutes after Matthew Tkachuk converted a brilliant power-play passing clinic, Rasmus Dahlin’s point shot tied the game after being deflected by Michael Frolik.
A giveaway three minutes later by Elias Lindholm landed on Jake McCabe’s stick before he deposited it past a screened Rittich midway through the third.
Noah Hanifin tied it with less than 10 minutes left, but the anticipated heroics fell short.
The Flames will practice Thursday when plans will be announced by the club that recently-retired Flames legend Jarome Iginla will have his number 12 hoisted to the rafters May 2.
Other encouraging news came in the form of a visit by agent Craig Oster, who represents restricted free agents Rittich and Tkachuk.
Flames GM Brad Treliving was out of town due to the sudden passing of his father in law.
Talks have certainly begun with both parties, although no one expects a quick resolution to either players’ contract situation. Tkachuk has no reason to rush things, especially given his offensive breakthrough that saw him score his 24th Wednesday as part of a six-game point streak.
James Neal missed the game due to illness and Travis Hamonic missed his second game due to a family illness.
“They’re a good team – they play fast,” said Giordano, who extended his point streak to five games, as did Lindholm.
“We know we can be better – we gave up a few breakaways we don’t usually do.
“At the end, in OT it was a good play by him. It looked like he was going to change and was tired and made a heck of a play and that’s a shot that goes in on anyone.
“We were down with under ten again and found a way to get a point. It felt like we had some momentum there but we just couldn’t get that winner in regulation.
“Sometimes you got to tip your hat – that was a good one.”