CALGARY -- Close but no cigar.
The Flames scored three goals in the final four minutes but couldn't find the equalizer, falling to the Nashville Predators 4-3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.
"We weren't ready to play," said coach Glen Gulutzan in his post-game media address. "They were the more desperate team ... we were kind of waiting for something to happen instead of making it happen.
"We need to figure out what we want to get done, what we want to accomplish. Once you get down, now you're at the mercy of a bad hop… you just dig yourself a hole, you have to be prepared to play."
Ryan Ellis scored two goals for the Predators and rookie netminder Jusse Saros made 32 saves in just his 10th career NHL game to preserve the victory for Nashville.
Kris Versteeg, Michael Frolik and Sean Monahan tallied the Flames' markers and Chad Johnson allowed four goals on 21 shots for his 11th loss of the campaign.
"It's a tough loss," Johnson said. "Personally, I could have stepped up and made some more saves. It's just disappointing.
"I had some good looks and those are times I feel like I can step up and make some saves but it didn't happen."
Video: NSH@CGY: Monahan finds twine with second effort
Nashville was in total control and held a comfortable lead until the Flames came to life.
First it was Versteeg converting on the powerplay with 3:43 left in the third and then Frolik scored 17 seconds later.
Frolik's marker was immediately waved off as Matthew Tkachuk appeared to bump Saros but a coaches challenge overturned the call.
The Flames cut the Preds lead to 4-3 with 48 seconds left and an extra attacker when Monahan found the net but that would be all the offence for Calgary as the rally would fall short.
James Neal and Filip Forsberg also scored for the Preds.
The Flames dropped to 24-21-3 on the season while the Predators improved to 21-17-7-3, leapfrogging the Vancouver Canucks into the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
The Preds inched closer to the Flames and sit two points back of Calgary.
"This is a team game and as a team we have to be better than that start to finish," Monahan said. "We didn't have the start we wanted and had some simple mistakes where they capitalized and that can't happen."
Neal opened the scoring for Nashville at the 4:59 mark of the opening period when he pounced on a rebound in the high slot and wired a wrister past Johnson.
The Preds opened up a two-goal cushion midway through the second stanza after Harry Zolnierczyk feathered a backhand pass at the Calgary blueline to a streaking Ellis, who found himself in all alone and made no mistake.
Video: NSH@CGY: Versteeg's scorcher finds twine for PPG
Ellis collected his second of the game with 1:02 left in the second on the powerplay. With Victor Arvidsson providing the screen, Ellis blasted a slapshot from the high-slot that Johnson got a piece of but the puck trickled in behind him giving Nashville a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Forsberg netted his 12th of the season and put the visiting team up 4-0 in the third period when he converted on a breakaway, snapping a shot past Johnson.
"At home we seem to wait to see if we are going or not instead of pushing the issue," Gulutzan continued. "We have to find a way to rid ourselves of that."
"You'd think we weren't in a playoff race and that's how we're playing. We have to realize where we're at."
NOTES: The Flames were without forward Sam Bennett who was a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career … also scratched for the Flames was defenceman Brett Kulak … Micheal Ferland returned to the lineup after missing three games with a lower-body malady … Garnet Hathaway was sidelined with a upper body injury … The Flames honoured referee Tom Kowal in a pre-game ceremony for working his 1000th game.
UP NEXT: The final Battle of Alberta of the regular season takes place on Saturday at the 'Dome (8:00 PM MT; CBC, Fan960).