With just 14 games remaining and five points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames find themselves in a must-win situation Thursday in Las Vegas when they face one of the hottest teams in the league in the Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights.
Vegas is 7-1-0 in the month of March, the most wins by any team in the NHL during that span. The Golden Knights also come in off an impressive 4-1-0 road trip that started with a 2-1 loss at Florida but ended with four straight wins against Tampa Bay (4-3 in overtime), Carolina (4-0), St. Louis (5-3) and Philadelphia (5-3).
Calgary, meanwhile, is just 3-4-3 over its last 10 games, including a 4-3 overtime loss at Arizona on Tuesday. Travis Boyd scored the winner for the Coyotes with 1:50 left in OT after the Flames’ Jonathan Huberdeau tied it with 5:01 left in regulation.
It marked the 14th time this season — the most in the NHL — that Calgary lost a game in an extra session. It also came on a night that the team they’re chasing in the playoff race, Winnipeg, lost at Carolina, 5-3. A win, and the Flames could have closed to within four points of the Jets with one head-to-head meeting on April 5 at Winnipeg still on the agenda.
“We’ve got to get some points,” Huberdeau said.
Calgary fell to 6-14 in overtime games and is 2-3 in shootouts. That’s a potential 17 extra points down the drain.
“If we want to make the playoffs, we need to win,” Huberdeau said. “We gotta give a better effort. How many have we lost? 14? You win half of those and we get a (extra) point and we’re in the playoffs.
“We got a point closer (to Winnipeg). We’ve just got to get going and go into Vegas and get two points.”
That won’t be easy. The Golden Knights have a three-point lead over Los Angeles in the Pacific and are 13-2-2 since the All-Star break.
“We showed a lot of resiliency,” forward Jack Eichel, who has eight goals and 17 points in the 17 games after the All-Star break, said of the team’s road trip. “Found ways to win games. Each game had its own story and we found ways to win.
“(With) the exception of the first game in Florida, we did a good job. Some nights it was a checking, low-scoring game. That’s what we did. There were other nights where we were good offensively. It was a long road trip, and to get eight out of 10 (points) is pretty good.”
A big key to the recent success has been the play of goaltender Jonathan Quick. A two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Los Angeles Kings, Quick was obtained at the trade deadline from Columbus hours after the Blue Jackets got him in a deal with the Kings.
He improved to 4-0-0 in four starts with the Golden Knights and made 27 saves in Tuesday’s win over the Flyers. That came three days after a 33-save shutout of the Metro Division-leading Hurricanes.
“Guys are comfortable with him,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Veteran guy. He does a lot of those little things, not only stop the puck.”
Quick has a .930 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average in his four starts with the Golden Knights.
–Field Level Media