Wild come back to sting Flames

Devin Setoguchi, who scored the shootout winner, gets in the face of Miikka Kiprusoff as the Wild...

Devin Setoguchi, who scored the shootout winner, gets in the face of Miikka Kiprusoff as the Wild beat the Flames 3-2. Photo by Hannah Foslien, Getty Images-AFP

Steve MacFarlane, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:04 AM ET

ST. PAUL, MINN. - People looking to add more fodder to the Fire Sutter movement will point to the shootout lineup he iced.

His most talented players were parked on the bench while Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Blake Comeau shouldered the heavy burden of trying to score a single goal that could have given the Calgary Flames a critical extra point in the 3-2 shootout loss Thursday night to the Minnesota Wild.

Truth is, his players never should have allowed it to get to that point.

Not when they staked themselves to a two-goal lead and a 21-4 shot advantage against a team with no hope of making the NHL playoffs.

Pacing the hallways with his hands pressed to his forehead in the moments following the game as his dressing room opened to the media, and reportedly taking his anger out on a garbage can shortly thereafter while loudly expressing his frustration in the hallways, Brent Sutter wasn’t available to explain his shootout lineup.

Instead, associate coach Craig Hartsburg came out to talk about the collapse that essentially sums up the Flames’ season so far — inconsistent and disappointing.

“I think Brent wanted to change things up. We’ve gone with the same group, really, for a lot of the shootouts,” said Hartsburg, whose team has now gone 3-9 in shootouts this season and had every reason to attempt something different.

But after neither side managed to squeak a puck past the goaltenders through the three-round showdown, and then Devin Setoguchi put the Flames in a score-or-go-home situation, it’d be tough to believe anyone expected Blake Comeau to be given the opportunity to extend it over Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross or even Jarome Iginla.

“We thought tonight, ‘roll the dice and put it in some other people’s hands,’ ” Hartsburg said.

That might have been Sutter’s first and only mistake on the night. It might be the decision that prevents him from sleeping. It might even cost him his job.

But the bottom line is his hand was forced by another inconsistent effort that left his players as publicly speechless as the coach in the aftermath of a loss that might have decided their season.

They had all of three shots in the third period, and never looked threatening after Stempniak and Anton Babchuk gave them a two-goal lead by the 22-minute mark. A lack of discipline allowed the Wild to gain some momentum on Dany Heatley’s second-period powerplay goal, and the hosts tied things up 12:23 through the final frame on Darroll Powe’s shot during a scramble.

“It’s been the story of us through the whole year,” Tanguay said. “We quit playing. We had the game in hand.

“We gave them an opportunity on the powerplay, they scored. They got back in the game, and we just sat back.”

It’s not what anyone wants to hear right now. And anyone looking for fodder from inside the dressing room in terms of Sutter’s decision to sit his stars in the showdown will have to look elsewhere, too.

“Whatever Brent sees at the time or wants to go with,” Iginla said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunity. I’ve had some good opportunities and haven’t been able to be above .500 in those. Whoever gets called, you’re doing your best to score there. We don’t look at any guys who missed there and think you let us down. We all let each other down.”

Maybe most of all their goaltender. Miikka Kiprusoff was remarkable as usual and might be the only reason they even salvaged a point.

They shouldn’t be here, in this bleak position, having lost four straight games to the Edmonton Oilers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Colorado Avalanche and now the Wild following a five-game win streak that gave them such hope.

“Extremely disappointed. There’s not much more we can say,” Tanguay said. “There’s nothing more to be said,

I don’t think. We’re just giving it away. You have to want to be in the playoffs. And right now, we’re giving it away.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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