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Plenty for Flames to build on after OT loss to powerful Hurricanes


After some losses, you hang your head, pick up the pieces on a poor showing and focus on getting back to work the next day.

This was not one of those losses for the Calgary Flames.

But don’t tell that to Jacob Markstrom.

“We didn’t get two points, so it wasn’t good,” spat the Flames netminder following a 2-1 overtime loss to Carolina at the Saddledome on Thursday.

“Now we haven’t got two points three games in a row.

“It’s not good for our group, not good for our team and not good enough for me.”

The netminder’s rather harsh assessment followed an impressive showing by the Flames in which the Hurricanes somehow pulled two pucks off the goal line in the third period to set up Sebastian Aho’s overtime winner.

Sure, it was the sixth time in seven overtime decisions the Flames have come up short.

But given how well they stacked up all night long against their doppelganger near the top of the NHL standings, there was plenty to applaud in this game.

“I think we battled back, earned a point,” said coach Darryl Sutter, who agreed the two teams play a similar style based on relentless forechecking.

“Hey, they’re one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup, right?

“They’ve got some top-end guys there and they showed it in overtime. You try to emulate their style as much as you can.”

On Thursday, they did exactly that, bouncing back from an early 1-0 deficit to go toe-to-toe with a deep, talented bunch that moved one point out of top spot in the NHL, just one ahead of the Flames.

Scoring chances and shots on goal were essentially even in a tight-checking game matching up two of the league’s stingiest netminders.

Both team’s employed tenacious forechecks that took turns pinning one another in their own zone.

Another measuring stick game for a Flames team that’s new to the type of structured, high-end hockey Rod Brind’Amour has had the Canes playing for years.

Noah Hanifin made up for a missed penalty shot with his second of the season midway through the night, setting the stage for a magnificent third period in which the Flames were mere inches from getting the win.

Early in the third, a Dillon Dube shot from in tight squeezed through Freddie Andersen and bounced off his stick on its way to the net before Teuvo Teravainen knocked the trickling puck off the goal line with a one-handed backhand for the ages.

With three minutes left, a Rasmus Andersson centring pass bounced off Jaccob Slavin and appeared to be heading into the net before the flailing defender somehow swiped the puck from harm’s way with another one-hander.

Seconds later, Aho, who opened the scoring four minutes in, cleared a Matthew Tkachuk shot before a dangerous foray by Mikael Backlund forced the Canes into taking their fifth penalty of the night in the final minute.

And there, to be frank, is where the Flames failed most in this one.

Having trouble even entering the zone with the man advantage, the Flames power play finished 0-for-5 with a paltry five shots on net.

“You could tell this morning and before the game we had some tired guys and it showed on our power play for sure,” said Sutter.

“We have to be a lot better in a game like that, when you know it’s going to be tight,” added Hanifin.

“When you get that many power plays, you’ve got to capitalize.

“We’ve got to do a better job on the break-outs. I thought Carolina did a good job holding the line, not giving us much.”

Otherwise, plenty for Calgary fans to get excited about, as the revitalized Flames gave as good as they took from one of the league’s very best.

A growing concern could certainly be the Flames’ overtime record, as the hosts coughed up the puck far too often in an extra frame where what matters most is possession.

Well, actually, Markstrom pinpointed what really matters most at three-on-three.

“Score before they score,” he said, with an edgy touch of sarcasm.

“I think that’s huge. That’s the most important thing for our group.”

After two months of Sutter reminding everyone his team doesn’t have anyone on his team capable of going end-to-end to win games in overtime, the irony was rich that Aho did exactly that to end an entertaining evening.

As Elias Lindholm jumped off the bench to give chase, Aho raced up the ice and drove the net, stopping just in front of Markstrom as the puck bounced fortuitously over the goalie’s pad.

“That’s a good team there, and we played a solid game, but it’s not good enough — we want to push and get those two points,” said Hanifin, whose club will try to halt its three-game slide Saturday against visiting Boston.

“Obviously today was a good test for us against a good team and I thought we maybe deserved it or didn’t deserve it, but I thought it could have gone our way more times that it went their way,” added Markstrom.

“But that didn’t happen, and we’re sitting here. We’ve got some work to do in practice and get back here next game.”





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