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Embattled Flames Defence Takes Another Hit in 4-3 OT Loss to Devils



How much do the Calgary Flames miss Chris Tanev?

It’s been abundantly clear since the shoulder injury he suffered in the playoffs last season that he’s the linchpin holding it all together for the Flames back end.

Rasmus Andersson earned 50 points and Noah Hanifin was right behind him. Adding MacKenzie Weegar to the mix this summer had many touting them as the best blueline in the NHL.

Even with the news Oliver Kylington would miss some time for a personal family issue, things lined up pretty nicely for this group.

But without Tanev, they frequently look lost.

That was obvious again on Saturday night, as the Calgary Flames jumped out to an early lead but found themselves behind 3-1 with time to spare in the first period alone.

They battled back to salvage a point against the red-hot New Jersey Devils with a 4-3 overtime loss on Hockey Night in Canada.

Goals from Elias Lindholm in the second period and Nikita Zadorov in the third got the club to extra time. Fabian Zetterlund’s second of the night ended it with Lindholm in the penalty box after a questionable call.

None of it was pretty. And it doesn’t bode well if Tanev is out for any length of time.

Without Tanev these past couple of games, the Calgary Flames have had to rely on Connor Mackey and Michael Stone as their 5/6 pairing.

It hasn’t gone well. And when Stone touched the iced for all of one shift lasting precisely 25 seconds, the Flames had to lean heavily on the remaining top four.

Rasmus Andersson, Nikita Zadorov and MacKenzie Weegar all logged nearly 20 minutes of ice time before the second intermission and finished near 30. Noah Hanifin wasn’t far behind but spent a couple of minutes in the penalty box.

Mackey was used sparingly. For good reason.

Mackey and Stone haven’t impressed Sutter much. He said on the pre-game radio show that they need to show they’re more than “practice players.”

But Sutter’s disappointment wasn’t reserved for the fringe. He’s questioned whether his young blueliners have it in them to be better. Sutter called out a lack of courage in the loss to the Nashville Predators.

For Mackey, though, it was a train wreck of a first period.

He made the wrong read on first goal, hanging out behind the net while Jack Hughes floated the puck out for Nathan Bastian, who was completely uncovered.

Mackey rode shotgun beside Nico Hischier on the second goal, like a pesky fly with no effect. Hischier waved him off as he sped behind the net, dished the puck to Tatar and watched Zetterlund finish it.

The 26-year-old Mackey also took a bad penalty, and seemed to have no awareness on a Jacob Markstrom pass attempt. He was ultimately on the ice for every goal in the first period.

At least he was out there for Nazem Kadri’s opening goal, which left him at minus-2 in 3:20 of ice time after 20 minutes.

He wasn’t alone being limited. Sutter also benched veterans Mikael Backlund and Milan Lucic in the third period.

“If you don’t have the energy or the emotion in the game, then they don’t get to play. Doesn’t matter who they are,” Sutter said after the game.

“The guys that played in the third got us a point.”

Blake Coleman called it a “loser point.”

It was the only one they earned in their last four games. All at home.

They’re heading to New York on Sunday, and the change of scenery can’t come soon enough.

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