NASHVILLE - The NHL's Road Warriors brought their A-lister into the Music City on Thursday.
But not even a three-point effort from Mikael Backlund was enough.
You can't win 'em all.
The Nashville Predators rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits late in the third to beat the Flames 4-3 in overtime, with Mikael Granlund scoring both the game-tying and winning in one of the most dramatic scenes you'll ever see in this game.
Andrew Mangiapane scored what looked to be the winning strike off an incredible feed from Mikael Backlund at 19:17...
But the Predators found a little magic in their back pocket and sent the game to overtime with - get this - only 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
Granlund was credited with the goal, as David Rittich was unable to scramble across in time to snag the winger's one-time attempt.
This, after Roman Rosi levelled the score only a few minutes earlier, erasing the 2-1 lead the Flames built up over a solid 55 minutes of work.
With the loss, the Flames fall 33-25-7 on the year.
Rasmus Andersson had Calgary's other goal, while David Rittich made 34 saves.
The Preds entered the night in a playoff spot, but two points back of the Flames with two games in hand for the top seed wild-card race.
They've now closed the gap to one.
You could sense it - the 'big-fight feel,' on the ice and in the dressing room, as the players geared up for the biggest game of the season.
The stakes were high and everyone knew it.
However, on this night, the homeside had that little bit extra.
The Predators opened the scoring with 31 seconds left in the first period, after pinning the Flames in their own end for an extended period. Late in the shift, Colin Blackwell won a race to a loose puck down low, shook off a defender and created space for himself below the goal line. Bringing the puck around the far side, he dished off a streaking Colton Sissons, who was fresh off the bench and driving hard to the blue paint. With a quick flick of the wrist, it was a 1-0 Nashville lead
The Flames had a couple of great looks earlier in the period that could have put the Preds in chase, but goaltender Juuse Saros - who was making his fourth straight start - was not only excellent, but he got a bit of help from his best friend, the post.
With a pinching Andersson was left wide open at the near hash, a Sam Bennett feed zipped through a seam like a jetliner through the clouds. Instead of a one-timer, Andersson accepted the pass, dusted 'er off, and slid the puck through the outstretched body of Saros. Unfortunately for the Flames, the puck clanked off the near pipe, and the rebound popped right back into the goalie's paraphanalia.
Shots on goal favoured the Flames 11-8 after one, but the Preds had the edge in home-plate chances, 3-2.
Saros, though, is providing to be a difference-maker for the Preds these days. He entered tonight's contest with nine wins in his last 11 starts and in that span, the 24-year-old has a .933 save percentage (second-best among goalies with at least 10 appearances) and a miniscule 2.22 goals-against average.
The Flames had a burr in their stride and clearly came out with a purpose to begin the middle session.
Backlund - continuing a stretch of white-hot play - took a drop pass from Matthew Tkachuk, evaded cover and circled deep into the corner, before firing a pass across the goalmouth and into the wheelhouse of Andersson, who made a great play to beat Sissons to the point.
Just like that, it was a 1-1 game at 26 seconds thanks to the D man's fifth of the campaign, breathing new life into the visitors.
The assist on Mangiapane's late tally was something to behold, as he worked his way across the blueline, turnstiled a pair of defenceman with the silkiest of toe-drags, then fed Mangiapane for a one-timer at the right circle.
"I thought we played pretty solid. Maybe sat back a little bit in the third, but I thought we had some good shifts as well. It's a tough one to swallow. We were so close to winning and they came back and scored. But we'll take the point, move forward. Five out of six (points) on this trip so far is pretty good. We've played some good teams."
MARK GIORDANO ON NASHVILLE'S LATE EQUALIZER:
"The puck seemed, at the end, that it was bouncing all over the place and they whacked it home. It's a tough point to lose, but I thought we did a lot of good things and we'll move on to the next one. ... The game was a playoff atmosphere. I think both teams were playing really hard. I thought we had some good looks, a lot of chances, I thought guys were dialled in. Just a tough way to lose."
ANDREW MANGIAPANE ON LEARNING FROM THIS ONE:
"I think all in all, we played a pretty solid game. Obviously, we've got to clean up some mistakes there and we've got to close that out there, but on the whole, I thought we played a pretty solid game."
GEOFF WARD ON MIKAEL BACKLUND'S GREAT NIGHT:
"He was awesome. Absolutely awesome. He's been playing really well and that line's been good. We're relying a lot of them and they're doing some nice things for us."
WARD ON THE HEARTBREAKING DEFEAT:
"It's a game of inches, right? You've got to play it right to the last whistle. Every play is important and it was unfortunate, but we'll take the point for sure. We'll be happy with probably 98% of the hockey game. I thought we played a real solid hockey game tonight, outside of a couple plays, and now we move on to Tampa."
WARD ON THE OTHER 2%:
"It was all controllable by us. A few things happened on the tying goal. The 2-2 goal ... we left the weak side of the ice open, so there were a couple of things there that we left them. We left them, and they jumped on them. That's the way it is at this time of year."
Mark Giordano returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a hamstring injury. The skipper did not miss a beat, recording two shots in 21:34 of ice time. … Noah Hanifin had only three shifts totalling 90 seconds in the opening 4:26 of the game before leaving with an apparently injury. He did not play the rest of the period, despite testing his right leg during a TV timeout late in the stanza, but was back playing at full speed when the second period began.
Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start the game:
Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm Andrew Mangiapane - Mikael Backlund - Matthew Tkachuk Milan Lucic - Derek Ryan - Dillon Dube Sam Bennett - Mark Jankowski - Tobias Rieder
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie Noah Hanifin - Rasmus Andersson Derek Forbort - Erik Gustafsson
The Flames close out this five-game road trip with a pair in the Sunshine State, beginning on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning (2 p.m. MT), and finishing on Sunday against the Florida Panthers (2 p.m. MT). The Flames return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, Mar. 4 when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.