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About Last Night #50: Flames feel weird winning in regulation, decide to give game away to Vegas

For 58 minutes, the Calgary Flames were the better team. For 58 minutes, the Flames outscored, outchanced, and outplayed the Western Conference leading Vegas Golden Knights, and looked to flip their recent four game losing streak around with a big win. For 58 minutes, the Flames seemed to be on the up and up and ready to extend their point streak to 12 games. Unfortunately, NHL hockey games span 60 minutes, and the Flames must have missed the memo. They allowed the Golden Knights to score two goals in under a minute to flip a 2-1 Flames lead into a 3-2 Golden Knights lead. Vegas would add an empty netter to finish the game 4-2.

It was a tough loss, especially with both the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings picking up wins. Where a win could have seen them rise to second place in the Pacific Division, the loss instead drops the Flames to 11th in the Western Conference.

Statistical Breakdown

Team Stats

All Situations 5v5 SVA 5v5
CF 55.3% 56.5% 55.5%
SCF 52.7% 51.0% 48.8%
HDCF 47.8% 47.1% 43.3%

5v5 Player Stats

Stats courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

Player of the Game

We’ll give POTG honours to Matthew Tkachuk, solely for his outstanding go-ahead goal last night. Grabbing the puck behind the net, Tkachuk went to his backhand, then to his forehand and put the Flames up on a beautiful wraparound tally. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was bumped by a Golden Knights defender, and Tkachuk capitalized on the opportunity. Lately, Tkachuk seems to be the only player with fire in his eyes. Hopefully his teammates can wake up around him and the Flames can get out of this slump.

Thoughts on the Game

John: To say I’m still in shock would be an understatement.

The Flames went from almost achieving a 12 game point streak and second place in the Pacific, to a five game losing streak. This has to be the most insufferable defeat the Flames have endured in recent memory. The stats show they were in control of this game, but yet again they found a way to lose. In this case, spectacularly.

I hate to say it, but Eric Francis raised an excellent point last night. The Flames lack a killer instinct. They do not know how to put away teams. Last night they had a third period PP opportunity to put the game to bed, and did not capitalize. That is of course in addition to the other two opportunities that were squandered earlier in the game.

I cautioned patience after the Edmonton game, but I can’t echo those same sentiments today. The Flames are in trouble now as they sit outside of the playoff picture. Teams like Anahiem and San Jose who shouldn’t still be in the picture due to injuries, have found ways to win. The Flames cannot seem to string together a dominant 60 minutes and come out with the two points. They need to figure out a way to do this if they want to remain relevant.

On a positive note, I thought the Troy BrouwerMark JankowskiSam Bennett line was outstanding last night. Generating chances shift after shift, it looks like that chemistry Gulutzan attempted to build at the start of last season between Bennett and Brouwer seems to have stuck. I like what I see with this trip after the Garnet Hathaway version began the falter.

Enough optimism, as the Flames have some challenging matchup ahead with Tampa Bay and Chicago in town next.

Karim: What has become too habitual, the Flames tried to hang onto a small lead and just didn’t know how. They seem completely unable to hold any kind of lead this year and don’t play with nearly enough defensive urgency to close out games.

Elliotte Friedman said last week that the Flames may be lacking the “killer instinct” required to win close games and in the playoffs. I completely see where he’s coming from. I can’t even count the number of times the Flames have desperately held onto a one or two goal lead and then play mediocre defensive hockey. If you’re going to kill off the clock, at least have the mindset to stop the other team from getting too many scoring chances. Play with a defense first mentality and grind out the win. The Flames are absolutely horrendous at doing that. At this rate, even if they do make the playoffs, they don’t stand a chance.

It’s the same song and dance with this team; I expect more of the same on Thursday.

Moving Forward

What needs to be fixed? Powerplay.

I might consider getting rid of this whole section for the remainder of the season. How long does it take?

What needs to continue? Tkachuk.

Tkachuk, and by extension his whole line with Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, has been the backbone of this team since early last season. They are simply amazing and despite Frolik’s gaffe last night, the loss cannot be pinned on him or his line. If the 3M line keeps doing what they’re doing, the Flames will have a chance at winning every night.

Next Game

The Flames play host to the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. The second and final meeting between the two teams, the Flames will try and sweep the season series and get back into the win column. All of a sudden, they’ve fallen out of the playoff picture and desperately need to earn some points. Unnecessarily forfeiting six points in the last five games looks like a big wasted opportunity right now, but a win against Tampa could turn the tides for the better.

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