The Flames are given another painful reminder that they lack game-breakers

Calgary – The Calgary Flames had control of the ball in overtime in a game they needed to play. They had a showdown in offensive zone with seconds left against three attackers. Rasmus Anderson has had a good game up until that point. Tyler Toffoli has been on fire lately. It doesn’t hurt to have Mikael Backlund on the ice. It’s all set up for the Flames to get one last set of chances and possibly win the two points over the Dallas Stars.

The stars faced Joe Pavelski, Rob Hintz and Jason Robertson. They won the encounter, starting their walkout, and Robertson powered his way past Anderson on his way to scoring the eventual winner in overtime. As Pavelski’s sweeping pass mounted onto the ice, the end felt inevitable.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Anderson said when trying to explain what happened in the eventual game-winning goal. “It’s an O-zone encounter for us and then (it’s) a two-on-one. And then I give Robertson an inch, he takes it and he scores.”

Once again, the Flames held a lead in the third period and lost. Once again, the Flames failed to build on a momentum-altering win from their previous game. Once again, the Flames had their chances but missed them or hit the post. Once again, the Flames failed to make up the ground in a playoff chase pulling away from them. Once again, the Flames failed to win in overtime and still don’t have an answer as to why they lost as much as they do – 15 losses.

“I don’t know,” said Flams striker Elias Lindholm. “If I had the answer, I would give it to you.”

It’s a growing list of platitudes that have been heard over and over again. In their loss to Dallas, those things doomed them and could ultimately eliminate them as they sit four points behind Winnipeg in the playoffs and just one point ahead of Nashville. The Predators still have three games in hand.

The Flames have players that have worked hard to keep them in. But their opponent had more in them, and their talent won them the day.

“We had the look,” Anderson said. “Obviously frustrated because we lost 15 games in overtime.”

The Stars slugged first with a 3-1 lead and outlasted the Storm as the Flames scored three unanswered goals. But Robertson, who now reached a season-high 41 goals last season, emerged as a difference-maker by equalizing on four goals before eventually scoring the winning goal. In fact, Robertson, Pavelski, and Hintz each had three point nights.

No wonder they felt comfortable enough to start each of them through this transformation on their own end.

Anderson and partner Mackenzie Weigher should have been the story on Saturday night. Both players had three-point nights and both have emerged as a solid and reliable pair. Instead, their performance was a mediocre footnote in the loss. Flames coach Daryl Sutter was asked about the pairing, and he assigned only one of the two running backs, indicating that he was happier with one player’s game than the other.

“I think (Weegar) was for sure. He had another great game,” Sutter said.

What is more worrying is the talent that did not produce, particularly Nazem Kadri who was not used at all in extra time and played only 13 minutes of action in the game. Jonathan Huberdeau was used in overtime and attempted an offense but ended his day with no shots with 18:15 of ice time. When these two players get points, the Flames are supposed to win matches. Neither of them did. Jacob Markstrom needed to be better than allowing six goals on 26 shots. Lindholm was the only other player after Anderson and Wegar to score a multi-point game.

Calgary needed a player to take over and win this game. The Stars, who lead the Central Division, have these players. Flames quality, unfortunately, is not the same.

“There’s a difference in snipers for both teams,” Sutter said. “At the same time, you look at both teams. I think they have 13 (loss) overtimes coming, we had 14 (before tonight). It’s not like they did it all the time either. They have some great snipers.

“We had chances, so that’s the bottom line, I’m disappointed we didn’t score.”

The Flames have 12 more games to salvage their season, but time is running out. Tonight was another reminder that if their attacking pieces had been luckier, or even played at the level of Robertson, Pavelski and Hintz, among others, we would be talking about a different season. The Stars didn’t completely outshine the flames, but they did take advantage of their chances. this is the difference.

(Picture of Dallas Stars players celebrating Jason Robertson’s goal against the Flames: Sergey Bielski/USA Today)


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