Skills competition hurting Flames

Blue Jackets Cam Atkinson (13) scores in overtime shootout past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff...

Blue Jackets Cam Atkinson (13) scores in overtime shootout past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff during NHL game action between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB March 18, 2012. (QMI Agency/Jim Wells)

Scott Fisher, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:07 AM ET

The shootout, it has been said, is basically a coin-flip.

 If that’s true, the Calgary Flames are playing with a double-headed coin.

And they keep taking tails.

The Flames dropped their fourth straight shootout — and eighth of 11 overall — and saw their playoff hopes take a major hit in the process.

Flames centre Matt Stajan, who at least rescued a single point for his club with a massive third-period marker, said it’s deflating to watch the bonus points evaporate.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t win in the shootouts,” Stajan said after the 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Our record hasn’t been too good this year in shootouts — that’s no secret.

“Last year, it didn’t seem like we could lose a shootout. Right now, that’s a huge difference in picking up some points.”

The Flames came away with an extra point in 9-of-16 shootouts last season.

If they were even 50% this season, they’d be in a playoff spot instead of desperately trying to stay in the race.

“Going into the season, shootouts are a part of getting points,” Stajan said. “It’s part of the NHL right now. You can complain about them all you want, but they’re there.”

The Flames’ shootout woes can’t be blamed on the man standing in their own cage.

Miikka Kiprusoff turned away all three Blue Jackets shooters, but the Flames couldn’t buy one at the other end, forcing extra shooters.

After Alex Tanguay, Olli Jokinen and Curtis Glencross came away scoreless for the Flames, Jackets winger Cam Atkinson made a beautiful forehand deke for the winner.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla had a chance to extend the shootout but was stopped by Jackets goalie Steve Mason.

Flames bench boss Brent Sutter defended his selection of shooters.

“You can always question yourself after it’s done,” Sutter said. “At the end of the day, you’re going with your top goal-scorers. If you’re a betting man, you’d still think that’s the right way to go.”

Trouble is they’re betting with that double-sided coin.

IN THE CORNERS

Missing a quarter of the season wasn’t easy on Lee Stempniak.

The veteran winger returned Sunday after missing 21 games with an ankle injury.

“It’s tough being out,” Stempniak said. “Obviously, everyone wants play and help the team. The hardest part is mentally knowing you can’t be out there and being patient to make sure you can be back on time. Emotionally, you’re really excited to be back. The games are that important, and the standings are changing by the hour, so you want to be in there and make a difference.”

Sutter put Stempniak on a line with David Moss and Blake Comeau.

“When you get Stemps back, you change things up a little bit,” Sutter said. “It gives you another line that you can put together that has some NHL experience. And it gives us a little more size down the middle with an experienced guy with Moss moving to centre.

“It’s encouraging because, hopefully, we’re slowly getting through this, getting guys back who can provide us with some experience.”

FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

Sven Baertschi isn’t the only Flames prospect opening eyes lately. Boston College won the Hockey East Championship Saturday night. and Johnny Gaudreau had two goals and a helper. Gaudreau, a fourth round pick in 2011, was named tournament MVP. The New Jersey product was also named MVP of the Beanpot Tournament.

OFF THE GLASS

It took the Flames 10:01 to record their first shot, meaning they had launched a grand total of four shots over the previous 30-plus minutes dating back to Friday in Edmonton ... According to sportsclubstats.com, the Flames’ chances of making the playoffs are now 25.7%, down from 33.1%. 


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