Calgary Flames head coach summed up these last few regular-season games almost poetically on Saturday morning.
Needing to win out to give themselves the best chance at slipping past the Winnipeg Jets for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference, Sutter acknowledged the fact the team needed help. “You may not be able to control your destiny,” said the Calgary Flames bench boss. “But you can surely control how you play.” That sort of statement is applicable to all kinds of predicaments.
Sutter grinned after spitting it out, knowing he’d offered a nice nugget for the masses. Unfortunately, the Flames have even less control and need even more help after a game as uneven as Calgary’s streets in springtime thanks to a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. They fell into a pothole in the first period, allowing the energetic Canucks to stake a 2-0 lead on goals from Cole McWard (his first in the NHL) and Elias Pettersson through the first 14 minutes.
The Flames clawed back, with Elias Lindholm striking just 38 seconds into the final frame, and Nazem Kadri connecting on the powerplay at the six-minute mark to atone for the Pettersson shortie and force a frantic finish.
The overtime was wild, but both Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko kept the pucks out. And as has been fairly common for the hard-luck Flames this season, the extra time wasn’t kind.
Andrei Kuzmenko scored the only goal in the showdown to snatch the all-important second point away from the desperate Flames team.
“Tough loss,” said Lindholm, who felt the game shift “right away in the second” period.
The deficit, though, left the Flames in a tough spot. The Canucks are loaded with dangerous individuals and easy favourites in the shootout. If the visitors played better in the first period, the outcome could have been very different.
“Tough first period, Lindholm said. “Last two periods, we were dominating. Had a lot of chances. I though we could have put this game away earlier.”
That’s the story of a Flames season that has been a self-professed rollercoaster. They play well at times, showing their potential, but have the consistency of milk. With two more games this week to close out the year, the Flames can max out at 94 points. The Jets need just three points in their final three games to clinch, even if the Flames win out now.
“It’s frustrating, but we move on,” said defenceman Rasmus Andersson. “It’s tough, obviously, the situation we’re in. But two games left.”
Any more beyond that this year will take a minor miracle now.