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Hit parade: Flames win thriller in potential playoff preview

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Don’t tell the Calgary Flames the win was meaningless.

They’ve known they’re going to the playoffs for days. The Pacific Division has already been wrapped up. The most the Flames can hope for is securing second seed in the Western Conference for the potential of a little more home-ice action if they make it to the third round.

And yet, the comments after a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night are telling.

“What that game did for us, bringing us together and at this time of year, that game did so much more for us than people would probably expect,” said wired winger Matthew Tkachuk. “Definitely feeling good and that game prepared us for what this next little bit is going to be like.”

The next little bit is the playoffs.

And there’s a good chance their first-round opponent will be the Predators.

If Tuesday’s contest was a playoff preview, get ready for a special opening series.

There were 74 hits recorded in the game, and the players figured that count might be a little low given the furiously fast and physically frenetic pace.

“What, in the first period?” Tkachuk replied with a laugh when asked about the body count.

A pair of second-period powerplay goals had the Preds up 4-3 with time ticking down, but Tkachuk scored with 0.1 seconds showing on the clock to force extra time. It was his 41st of the season. Linemate Elias Lindholm matched that number in OT to pocket the extra point.

But, for once, it wasn’t the two points that head coach Darryl Sutter was talking about in his post-game presser.

Even the even-keeled king was feeling a bit of a jolt from that one.

“Lots of emotion. Lots of energy in the building,” said the Calgary Flames coach. “Fun game. Win or lose, it was a fun game.

“They’re a physical team. It was an emotional game. It was good for our group to have one of them.”

Dillon Dube continued his hot streak with another pair of goals to run his total to 18 on the season. He has eight in his last seven games alone. Defenceman Noah Hanifin also scored, setting a new personal best with 11 this year. His career season is now at 50 points and counting.

Just two regular-season games remain. The Flames are in Minnesota to face the Wild on Thursday, and then play their finale in Winnipeg against the Jets on Friday.

The Preds and Dallas stars are battling for the wildcard seedings. If they finish with the same point total, the Predators own the tiebreaker.

Milan Lucic, who dropped the gloves with defenceman Mark Borowiecki on Tuesday, suggested the potential preview was one of the most exciting games he’s ever played.

“I’ve played over 1,000 games now and that’s probably a Top-5 game that I’ve been a part of,” Lucic said. “With the goals, the hits, the fights, the emotions, the crowds. It was a great game to be a part of.”

Tkachuk spoke volumes about the volume of the crowd in Nashville. If they hook up in the playoffs, the C of Red at the Saddledome will have a chance to set the decibel benchmark first.

“The rink was awesome. The atmosphere was great. You couldn’t really hear for a lot of parts of the game. That made it very special and very fun,” said the Calgary Flames winger. “Ultimately, we haven’t beaten these guys this year. If we do run into them (in the playoffs), it’s good to have the confidence that we can beat them. I thought all in all, that game did a lot for us.”

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