Screws tighten on Flames

Calgary Flames' David Moss shoots for the goal with New York Islanders' Jack Hillen.  (QMI)

Calgary Flames' David Moss shoots for the goal with New York Islanders' Jack Hillen. (QMI)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The body language at the final buzzer told the story.

The lengthy time it took to open the dressing room reinforced it.

A 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders finished off the Calgary Flames playoff hopes.

They know it. Their sombre and despondent demeanour said it all.

Sure, they can still cling to hope since they're not mathematically eliminated, but they're now four points back of the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings -- who have a game in hand -- with just eight games remaining on the schedule.

"It's a tough loss," captain Jarome Iginla said quietly. "We're in a good position, a lead in the third period. That goal they scored in the first minute, you can't give those up. It's a game we feel we should have had.

"It's a tough blow. Those are huge points that got away from us. In the situation we're in, we've got to win those games."

Facing an Islanders team which is all but officially dusted, the Flames inexplicably lacked urgency before the announced crowd of 12,817 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The fact it took eight minutes to register their first shot on goal was evidence of that.

Their powerplay, which has cost them too many games this season, failed to click on five chances against one of the NHL's worst penalty-killing units.

Still, thanks to a goal by Eric Nystrom -- part of a two-point outing in his first-ever NHL game in his hometown -- and another by Nigel Dawes, the Flames were in the driver's seat with just 20 minutes remaining.

Instead of grabbing the must-win, Matt Moulson's tally just 28 seconds into the third period erased the lead before Bruno Gervais netted the game-winner.

Several Flames players sat slumped at the bench when time ran out.

The parade off the ice was slow. It took more than 20 minutes for the room to be opened to the media, and every player was in his stall with the look of a beaten man.

"Nobody's going to give up," said Iginla, words he was as much using to trying convince himself as much as anything. "We knew that with nine games, we were going to have to win seven or eight of them. This one got away from us, and it hurts, but nobody's going to give up in here."

Sure, but now the Flames are looking for help and have to be perfect.

"At the end of the day, we need more. There've been too many games here when we've had too much inconsistency in our play," said head coach Brent Sutter, who looked out of answers. "There's a level you've got to play at when you're in the situation we're in, and that level isn't being played at consistently enough.

"It still can be done, but they've got to be believe it can be done. Yet, to make it happen, it's got to be done a certain way."

If one line did perform from puck drop to final seconds, it was Nystrom's.

The 2002 first-round draft choice had a charge in him from playing in the rink where his father, Bob, became a fan favourite and won four Stanley Cups.

He responded with a big outing, including his fourth goal in five games.

"I'm sure never in a million years he ever thought his son would be playing in the NHL and playing in the same arena as he did, so I think this is a pretty proud moment for him," Nystrom said. "Too bad we couldn't come out on top, because that would've really made it a great night."

Calgary will try to regroup and start a miracle run Saturday in Boston.


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