SUN Hockey Pool

Missed opportunity

RANDY SPORTAK, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

Oh sure, the Calgary Flames played well enough to earn a win that could have made their playoff ticket one victory away.

But the way head coach Mike Keenan sees it, his team stopped just a bit shy of the mark needed against a team as desperate as the Oilers, and that was the difference in a 2-1 Edmonton victory last night.

"We played a good game, but we didn't play with an edge, and that's what it took tonight," Keenan said. "They had great goaltending and only ended up getting two minors, one for shooting the puck over the glass and one for too many men, so I guess they didn't commit any infractions throughout the game. They got a break as far as I'm concerned in that regard. With that being said, we had a chance tonight to establish a game with a better edge, and we didn't do it and weren't prepared to do it."

Amidst the emotional wringer of the final days of the regular season, the Flames (40-28-10) had the opportunity to put themselves that much closer to a spot in the Western Conference's elite eight. On top of that, they could ensure their biggest rivals would not be able to catch them in the standings.

Instead of making a statement at the right time, the Flames were left lamenting a blown third-period lead to an Oilers team (40-34-6) still alive thanks to an incredible late-season charge.

"Every team's battling. Every game's a playoff game," said Flames centre Daymond Langkow. "Tonight was like a playoff game. It was tight checking, both goaltenders played really well ... unfortunately, we didn't muster enough offence."

In theory, they actually did score enough when Matthew Lombardi broke a scoreless tie early in the third period.

However, Denis Grebeshkov evened the clash 67 seconds later, which set the stage for Dustin Penner's game-winning powerplay tally.

Costly miscues at the wrong time made the difference, just like playoff hockey.

"I turned away on a puck," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla regarding the equalizer.

"It's a mental breakdown. For me to turn the wrong way, that's unacceptable, especially after (we score) a goal. It's tough, because as a team, we played hard and had momentum there."

The Flames remain three points back of the Minnesota Wild with a game in hand in the Northwest Division chase but also only four points ahead of the trio of teams -- the Vancouver Canucks, the Nashville Predators and the Edmonton Oilers -- tied for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Oilers (40-34-6) officially hold 10th place, having only two games remaining in the regular season but still alive because the Flames weren't good enough to put them away.

Certainly the hosts had the golden chance to get off and running with a 42-second, five-on-three powerplay, but they couldn't find the mark.

"Any time you get a five-on-three, especially early in the game, you've got a chance to get a team down," Langkow said. "We had some good chance -- they were blocking shots -- and it just didn't go for us. But it's like the playoffs --you can't look at games and say, 'What if?' "

The Flames pushed frantically for the equalizer, but Oilers netminder Dwayne Roloson came through with a handful of big stops in the final minutes and also had the benefit of being beat by a deflected shot that rang off the post in the final minute before the frenzied Saddledome sellout crowd of 19,289.

"The shot was coming to my glove side up head-high, and the next thing you know I lost it," said Roloson. "I had no clue where it was and all I heard was Tom Gilbert hollering it went behind me. So, I just laid down and next thing you know there are all these fireworks and things going on, so I was just trying to find the puck."

Roloson also managed to prevent Iginla from scoring his 50th goal of the season, despite the fact the Flames captain had eight shots on goal and a handful of great scoring chances.

Even with playoff berths on the line, the Battle of Alberta has to have some nastiness, and with the Flames' recent penchant for having a player drop the gloves, you knew there would be early fireworks. It came when Jim Vandermeer lined up beside Edmonton enforcer Zack Stortini for a faceoff in the first period, which resulted in a spirited bout.


Videos

Photos