Collecting yet another single point proved bittersweet for the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
The Flames rallied from a two-goal deficit to force extra time, but ultimately fell 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout — a loss that dims the team’s playoff hopes as the regular season winds to a close.
“Just a sour taste from this one,” said forward Elias Lindholm. “It’s going to sting a little bit tonight and right back to practice tomorrow and then we’ll go again.”
The result left Calgary (37-27-16) one point behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Flames have two games left on their regular-season schedule while the Jets have three.
Elias Pettersson and Cole McWard — with his first NHL point — put away first-period goals for Vancouver (36-36-7).
Lindholm and Nazem Kadri replied in the third to force extra time.
Andrei Kuzmenko buried the lone goal in the shootout, skating wide of the Calgary net, then firing a shot up and into the top corner to secure the win.
Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom stopped 31-of-33 shots and Thatcher Demko made 41 saves for Vancouver, who played their final home game of the season.
Vancouver took a 2-0 lead into the third but couldn’t withstand Calgary’s pressure in the final period.
“We know where they are (in the standings), so we know they were going to come out hard and we wanted to match that,” Pettersson said. “And I think we did a really good job. They scored two quick on us. I think we let our foot off the gas but other than that I’m happy with our team.”
The Flames levelled the score at 2-2 midway through the frame when Noah Hanifin sent a puck to Kadri at the side of the net and he batted a shot in between Demko. The goal, Kadri’s 24th of the campaign, came at the 6:07 mark.
Calgary bit into the home side’s lead 38 seconds into the third.
Tyler Toffoli sent a pass to Dillon Dube, who dished it off to Lindholm and the Swedish forward fired a shot past Demko from the faceoff circle to make it 2-1 with his eighth shot of the night and 22nd goal of the season.
Canucks coach Rick Tocchet was unimpressed with how his side allowed the Flames to claw their way back into the game.
“Battles under pressure, wanting the puck when your teammate has it, little things like that. I’m glad we won, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the little things here that we really got to value,” he said.
“You’re up 2-0 and you are careless with the puck. Good teams lock it down. We’ve got to get that mentality around here.”
The Flames penalty kill nearly cashed in late in the second after Calgary was called for too many men.
Blake Coleman and Lindholm streaked down the ice on a short-handed two-on-one, and Coleman sliced a pass to his teammate across the slot. Lindholm sent a shot soaring at the Vancouver net, only to see Demko dive and snatch the puck out of mid-air with a stunning glove save.
The Canucks took a 2-0 lead with a short-handed tally after Quinn Hughes was sent to the box for tripping in the first.
Miller broke up a Flames pass at the blue line and sliced the puck up to Pettersson for a breakaway. The Swedish centre sprinted up the ice and blasted a shot past Markstrom from the bottom of the slot for his 38th goal of the season 13:09 into the first.
Vancouver’s penalty kill has been an offensive threat in recent months. The team has 15 short-handed goals this season, with 13 coming since Tocchet took over as head coach on Jan. 22.
The goal was one that could have been the Flames undoing, said coach Darryl Sutter.
“I think we came out flying in the first period. I thought we played a decent period. The shortie could have killed us, a soft play,” he said. “And I think we slowly took over in a lot of areas. And then we couldn’t solve Demko. We fought back. Can’t ask much more than that.”
McWard opened the scoring 9:03 into the game, sending a blast through traffic and past Markstrom from inside the blue line for his first NHL goal.
The 21-year-old defenceman made his league debut Thursday after signing a two-year, entry-level deal with Vancouver on Tuesday after completing his second season at Ohio State University. He had nine goals and 12 assists in 39 games for the Buckeyes this season.
A LITTLE EXTRA
Three of four matchups between the Flames and Canucks went to extra time this season. The Canucks chalked up a 4-3 shootout win on Dec. 14 before dropping a 3-2 decision on Dec. 31. The Flames then posted a 5-4 overtime victory on March 31.
Pettersson’s goal marked the ninth short-handed point of the season for both Pettersson and Miller, tying Pavel Bure (1992-93 and 1997-98) and Russ Courtnall (1995-96) for most by a Canucks player in a single season.
Canucks: Visit the L.A. Kings on Monday.
Flames: Host the Nashville Predators on Monday.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press
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