As far as measuring stick games go, the Calgary Flames looked like they asked Nikita Zadorov to play with Jakob Pelletier’s lumber.
It fell well short.
Yes, it was the Flames’ first game back after a five-game road trip. Those are often challenging for the home side. But in a lopsided 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night showed they’ve got a long way to go if they want to fight their way out of the muck of the wildcard pack in the Western Conference.
The defending Stanley Cup champs put them in their place pretty quickly.
“It’s like a different class, that’s for sure,” Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter told reporters post-game.
It was pretty obvious off the start, with the Avalanche — who started the night four points behind the Flames in the wildcard race — making the Flames look almost motionless at times in the opening minutes.
Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen had the Avs up 3-0 in the first 13 minutes.
Rantanen, who added an empty netter when Zadorov chopped his stick out of his hands as he went to put the puck in the open cage in the dying seconds, scored his 30th of the season 6:17 into the first period.
Lehkonen scored the next two on consecutive shifts, including one on a magnificent setup from Nathan MacKinnon that was briefly reviewed because the net popped up during the play.
Tyler Toffoli scored the Calgary Flames’ only goal on an early powerplay in the third period. But that was all the home side could muster.
Disappointment was apparent in every interview.
Concern is there, too.
“Still looking for a really good game. It’s concerning,” said Elias Lindholm. “That first period set the whole game up. They had all the chances. We were flat and slow. When you play like that in the first against the champs, it’s not gonna work very well.”
Nothing worked. And if these are two teams that considered themselves candidates for better second halves of the season, only one showed that kind of promise in their head-to-head battle.
“They’re the defending champions for a reason. Just not ready to play against a really good hockey team, that’s what it comes down to,” Toffoli said without any real answers as to why that was. “It almost feels like every time we get on a roll, we do something like this.
“Clearly they played a lot better than us, so we’ve got to figure our stuff out.”
Despite allowing three goals in the opening period, goaltender Jacob Markstrom finished the game strong with 27 saves.
Sutter says he had no thoughts of pulling the netminder to spark his team in the second.
“Tonight?” Sutter said when asked if it crossed his mind. “No, not a chance.”
Those last few words really summed up the night.