When push came to shove, the Calgary Flames just didn't do enough pushing.
And when they did, it cost them time in the sin bin.
True, they need just two points of their own over the next three games or the Colorado Avalanche to lose just once to clinch a playoff spot. But last night they let a chance to put an 'X' beside their name -- and end the Avs' playoff hopes once and for all -- slip through their fingers.
While they twice claimed leads and held home-ice advantage, the Flames didn't discover their killer instinct in time to avoid a 4-3 loss in front of their fans at the Saddledome.
They struggled to stay out of the penalty box and, in just a few minutes during the second period, seemed to lose control of the contest.
Momentum swung back and forth with powerplay opportunities. With referee Mick McGeough running the show for the second straight game, there was no doubt special teams players would get a workout.
Colorado's second powerplay marker of the game was the backbreaker.
It came with a pair of Flames serving hooking penalties late in the middle period after the Avs tied the game at 2-2 a couple of minutes earlier. Pressing for the lead, the visitors drew obstruction calls on Alex Tanguay then defenceman David Hale.
Rookie of the year candidate Paul Stastny eventually capitalized.
"That 5-on-3 is a big turning point," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
"A 5-on-3 for that long with that team is very hard. Our guys did a good job trying, they got close to killing it off, but I think that was a good boost for them."
The crowd rained boos down on McGeough and Tom Kowal after the go-ahead goal but the Flames' poor positioning led to their misfortune.
Their only gripe was that few calls went their way as they pressed in the third.
"I thought that early it was called pretty tight," Iginla said, comparing the calls to McGeough's game in Vancouver Saturday.
"You call it tight, it's fine, but later we were pushing. I thought we had the potential to be drawing some back the other way.
"I thought we were playing well later and it wasn't as tight as it had been called earlier from our point of view. So there was some frustration."
The Flames didn't have the jump you might have expected from a team that could wrap up a playoff spot.
Flames winger Alex Tanguay said the first game following a long road trip is often tough on the body but the turnovers that led to penalties and odd-man rushes were inexcusable.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot," said Tanguay.
"We gave them a couple of 2-on-1s where they made nice plays and then the 5-on-3 where they capitalized. That was the difference.
"When you don't feel your best, you have to make sure you limit your turnovers."
Up 3-2 in the third period, Joe Sakic added an insurance goal that turned out to be the winner when Daymond Langkow gave the Flames some life with a man-advantage marker 2:39 before the buzzer.
Jeff Friesen scored shorthanded in the first before Brett Clark tied the game on the same powerplay with 11.1 seconds to go in the period.