The Calgary Flames’ loss can’t be pinned solely on Connor Mackey.
Hell, he was the only guy to score any goals for a team that’s struggling to put any sort of offence together right now.
But the 26-year-old sure knows how to turn what could have been the greatest night of his NHL life so far into the very definition of bittersweet in a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
After scoring his second goal of the night — doubling his NHL total — to make it a one-goal game in the third period, Mackey made an awful decision that quicky turned it into a two-goal gap.
He carried the puck behind his net and fired a pass up the middle of the ice intended for Jonathan Huberdeau. It was intercepted by Brandon Saad and he beat goaltender Jacob Markstrom five-hole on the sudden breakaway.
“The only defenceman in the league that can pass on his backhand to the middle of the ice below the goal-line is Cale Makar,” said Flames head coach Darryl Sutter in his post-game availability.
Playing more because of the Chris Tanev injury, Mackey might have looked like Makar on the scoresheet with a couple of aggressive plays that led to the only two scores for the Calgary Flames on the night.
He made a nice pinch on the first one and was parked in front of the net when a Dillon Dube shot banked in off his shoulder. That tied the game at 1-1 in the first period after Ivan Barbashev opened the scoring five minutes into the first.
Mackey’s second wasn’t a fluke. He took a pass from Dillon Dube as he raced into the zone from the bench and lasered a wrister past Thomas Greiss from the high slot.
The elation didn’t last long. He served up the pizza on his next shift.
“I gotta be smart with the puck,” Mackey said post-game. “I just feel like I let the guys down there. I mean, I can’t be doing that right after we score to get right back in it, and then get right back out of it.”
He wasn’t alone with the unforced errors, though. The Flames coughed the puck up frequently, and it wasn’t just the young guys. Elias Lindholm made a poor play on the opener. Andrew Mangiapane’s coverage appeared to be flagged by Sutter on the 3-1 goal for Pavel Buchnevich just a few minutes in the second period before Mackey cut that lead back to one with his second. The gaps and coverage were lacking on most of the goals, and Milan Lucic — playing his first game back after sitting out three as a scratch — was visibly frustrated on the final goal after failing to pick up the right guy even after getting back into the defensive zone to make a play.
“One-goal game going into the third period. Can’t make those mistakes,” Sutter said, later taking offence to the suggestion their game fell off in the third.
“It didn’t really fall off. It’s a backchecking mistake and a turnover below the goal line.
“Just don’t make them,” he added when asked the key to stopping those errors.
“That’s not a complicated part of the game. Check for chances.”
Jordan Kyrou scored twice for the Blues, including the dagger 5-2 goal halfway through the third period off MacKenzie Weegar.
The Flames couldn’t beat Greiss again as the Blues netminder finished with 41 saves.
Markstrom had an abysmal .792 save percentage after a stretch of his best hockey of the year. He made 19 stops but couldn’t bail out his teammates after their mistakes.
With that, the Calgary Flames have lost five straight games, although the team has gone to overtime or a shootout in three of them.
“It’s too bad,” Sutter said. “We’re playing all these one-goal games. Well, it’s still a one-goal game (in the third period). You still gotta score that (next) goal.”