Dallas pivotal point for Flames — again

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:11 PM ET

SAN JOSE — When the Calgary Flames were on their remarkable climb from the depths of the standings into a playoff position, it was a win in Dallas everyone easily pointed to as the turning point.

If the Flames don’t come up with a miraculous finish to this season, we’ll be able to look at another win in Dallas as the fork in the road which took them in the other direction.

The wrong direction.

Funny how things can work out over a six-month, 82-game season.

Heading into Saturday’s make-it-or-break-it game against the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary’s hockey heroes are in the throes of a skid in which they’ve managed just one victory in seven games.

In a curious way, it’s their final victory before the swoon in which things began to fall apart, completing a unique circle.

Any die-hard Flames fan can recall the first win in Big D. It’s the now famous Dec. 23 clash in which the sputtering club snapped a three-game losing skid after Alex Tanguay scored late in regulation time and then popped the shootout winner.

They went on a spree through March 9, compiling a 22-6-6 record capped by another shootout win in Dallas, this time 4-3.

But that night, the cracks were showing.

Just nobody really saw them.

Proving true the cliche a streak can be over before it’s actually over, the Flames staked themselves to a 3-0 first period lead on the Stars, watched it evaporate and then come up with a shootout win.

At the time, everybody was in a celebratory mood. They claimed another victory, one which would give them a series sweep of the Stars and, more importantly, put them into fifth in the Western Conference.

In fact, the Flames were tied with Chicago for fourth spot, but the Blackhawks had a single game in hand.

But the tell-tale signs were there, even if nobody wanted to admit it.

The sound defensive game, not great but proving good enough for a team with a strong offensive attack, wasn’t in place after that three-goal outburst.

The structure which the Flames took great pride in and admitted was a big part of their turnaround started to dissipate.

The Stars took advantage, but couldn’t come up with the win.

Almost every team the Flames have faced since then has been able to, while the Calgary club which was sailing along and looking forward to a playoff run has stumbled like a punch-drunk boxer taking one standing eight-count after another.

In the seven games since that victory, the Flames have posted a 1-4-2 record.

They’ve been outscored by a 25-19 margin, and five of their goals came against a horrid Colorado Avalanche team.

The powerplay has clicked at a 22.7% rate (5-22), but the penalty kill has been a big letdown at a dismal 68.4%.

To top it off, they’ve been victimized by too many slow starts — think of being down 3-0 in the first six minutes in Anaheim or trailing 4-2 to San Jose after the first period.

And they’ve been victimized by too many blown leads, such as at home to Vancouver and in that same Anaheim game when they erased the three goal deficit, pulled ahead 4-3 only to gas the edge and fall in overtime.

In short, all the things they were doing right and took so much pride in during the two-and-a-half-month run of success, has gone out the window.

Yes, the wave of injuries — especially to Brendan Morrison and David Moss — hasn’t helped.

But the fact remains, other teams are overcoming difficult barriers at the crossroads of their season.

Anaheim managed to stay in the mix despite being without Jonas Hiller for nearly two months.

Nashville has injuries and a roster without the offensive potential the Flames can muster.

Dallas pushed through despite losing Brad Richards for 10 games.

The Flames were just as well equipped to come through in the clutch.

They haven’t.

And they can’t go back to Dallas to see if they can turn this season around one more time.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak

The seven game swoon

Date team result PP PK

March 10 at Phoenix 3-0 loss 0-3 2-2

March 12 vs. Vancouver 4-3 loss 0-2 0-2

March 15 vs. Phoenix 4-3 loss 1-2 1-1

March 17 vs. Colorado 5-2 win 2-4 4-5

March 20 at Anaheim 5-4 OT loss 1-4 1-3

March 21 at Los Angles 2-1 SO loss 0-6 4-4

March 23 at San Jose 6-3 loss 1-1 1-2


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