Jacob Markstrom deserved better. Much better, given his impressive play in the Calgary Flames' goal during Thursday night's 2-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
"He was really good. I thought he was our best player," Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said during his media conference following the game.
The third-year Flames netminder, whose play has been spotty this season, was in top form in front of the C of Red — the Saddledome crowd punctuated on this night by the usual sizable collection of blue-clad Toronto supporters — robbing Leafs snipers throughout the close affair.
Calgary scores first
The Flames opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game on a breakaway goal by forward Blake Coleman, who beat Leafs goalie Joseph Woll blocker side.
That was the first period's only goal, but not for the lack of trying by either side. Auston Matthews fired four pucks at Markstrom in the opening frame — twice as many shots than the Leafs star recorded the night before in Edmonton — but all in vain, including a right-pad stop by the goalie from point-blank range later in the period.
Other highlight-reel stops by Markstrom followed, notably saves on shots by newly acquired defenceman Jake McCabe in the second and on forward Mitch Marner in the third.
Still, it wasn't enough as the engaged visitors — fresh off a decidedly listless performance the night before in Edmonton, where they lost 5-2 to the Oilers — took 34 shots on Markstrom, two of them making it past him.
Leafs break through
In the second, Leafs top-liner Marner finally penetrated Markstrom's armour, beating the screened 'tender to put Toronto on the board. Marner undressed a decidedly sloth-like Milan Lucic on his way to the high slot for his successful shot.
— nopClips (@nopClips) March 3, 2023
Former Flame Calle Jarnkrok deposited the winning goal early in the third period on a scramble in the Flames' crease, with the Leafs centre racing in to poke the puck past the trapper of the outstretched Markstrom.
Matthews and Marner paced the Leafs' attack with eight shots apiece.
Coleman's marker was the lone goal for the Flames, who fired 26 shots at the Leafs' Woll.
Standings following games March 2, 2023
Flames five points out of playoff spot
The loss drops the Flames' record to 27-22-13 to sit five points behind the Winnipeg Jets, who have one game in hand on Calgary, for the final wildcard playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Flames return to action Saturday night to host the Minnesota Wild.