Unlucky bounce stymies Flames’ comeback vs. Golden Knights

Shea Theodore took a shot that deflected off the stick of Andrew Mangiapane and it helped propel the Vegas Golden Knights to the win over the Calgary Flames.

CALGARY – After rolling the dice and coming up short against Vegas once again, the Calgary Flames took turns speculating on the odds of the Golden Knights’ winning goal going in.

Just under two minutes after Andrew Mangiapane’s world-class pass allowed Matthew Tkachuk to complete a three-goal comeback for the Flames, the youngster was victimized with a deflection off his stick that handed Vegas the victory.

As Shea Theodore threw the puck at the net from inside the far hash marks, the tip of Mangiapane’s out-stretched stick redirected the puck over David Rittich’s shoulder for the game-winner with 70 seconds remaining.

“He shoots that 100 times, I guarantee that’s not going in 99 out of 100,” said Milan Lucic, a man whose goal, assist and seven hits helped turn the game around after the hosts fell behind 3-0.

“You can try to do that 1,000 times and it wouldn’t happen,” one-upped Dillon Dube, who also had a whale of game alongside Lucic, scoring once and adding four hits.

Leave it to the captain to peg the odds higher than a Red Wings shutout.

“That play could happen, I betcha, 10,000 times,” said Mark Giordano, whose third-place squad dropped five points behind the division-leading Knights with the defeat.

“Honestly, it’s just a terrible break. Then, to get a tip that goes right where it went – he’s doing the right thing. You’re taught to go stick on puck. Most times, that goes over the net and goes wide and we get possession of it. A tough way to lose, obviously. But, a lot of good things throughout the night especially after we were down. We battled back and we’ll take the positives out of it.”

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Unlucky break or not, they all know the only numbers that mattered following their 5-3 loss were the two points they fell further behind Vegas, and the overtime point they nearly had.

It’s the third time in three tries the Flames have failed to solve the team clearly trending towards winning the Pacific Division. Yet, there were the Flames, neck-and-neck with the surging Sin City crew with three minutes remaining.

“It’s tough,” said Mangiapane, of the wild emotional swing he helped author.

“We tied it back up and then just tried to put a stick there and it ramped off it and went in. Maybe another night it goes out of play or goes into the corner or whatnot. It just happened to go in. Just bad luck. You definitely don’t want it to ever happen to you, especially in the situation that we’re in right now.”

Mangiapane’s setup of Tkachuk’s goal on a two-on-one demonstrated why he’s a fixture on the second line, setting the stage for a comeback the Flames could have marinated in the next three days off.

However, with the stakes higher than an all-in at Bellagio, they’re left trying to focus on the positives of a comeback few saw coming.

Lucic almost singlehandedly willed his team back into the game with a pair of big hits in the first period that dragged his teammates into the fight.

Shortly after Max Pacioretty put the Knights up 3-0 early in the second, Lucic’s shot at the tail end of the world’s slowest 3-on-1 got the crowd back into it.

It kick-started a comeback keyed by a Dube power-play snipe late in the period he earned full marks for after drawing the penalty.

What followed was a third period full of big-boy hockey in which the Flames demonstrated clearly they can roll with the Knights.

“It’s showing we can play with those guys,” said Dube, whose team was outscored 12-2 in their previous two meetings in Vegas.

“It was a good game. It was physical. Those are fun games to play in, right? It was good that we competed and we battled back.”

If not for the slow start, the Flames felt they could have won this one.

“We obviously know we haven’t had a lot of success (in Vegas),” said Giordano, whose club is 0-for-6 lifetime at T-Mobile Arena.

“Over here, we’ve beaten them a bunch of times (3-2 lifetime). I thought we did a good job of proving we can play with them. They’re a top team in the league. After we realized we had to get pucks in and get heavier on our forecheck and the ‘D’ had to get our gaps, we battled right back to tie it with three minutes left. We had to find a way to get that into overtime.”

They didn’t, thanks to a one-in-a-million bounce.

Or something like that.

NOTES: Noah Hanifin left the game in the first period after appearing to get an elbow to the head from Brandon Pirri, who was falling after being hammered by Lucic. He finished the shift, but did not return. No update was given after the game … The Flames spent no time talking after the game about a goal by Mikael Backlund late in the first period that was overturned following a Golden Knights challenge for goalie interference. Just prior to scoring Backlund ran into Robin Lehner just outside the top of the crease. The goal, which would have cut the Vegas lead in half, to 2-1, was overturned by video review in Toronto with the following explanation: “It was determined that Mikael Backlund impaired Robin Lehner’s ability to play his position prior to his shot entering the net. According to Rule 69.4, ‘If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.’” … The Flames host the Islanders Thursday.

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