The Flames crusade to beat the Vegas Golden Knights came up short again Sunday.
After two losses - both in Vegas - earlier this campaign, the teams played their third of four regular-season tilts, the visitors skating to a 5-3 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
In what was an all-important 'four-point' divisional matchup, the Golden Knights - who had a three-point lead on the Flames coming into the game - took over top spot in the Pacific with the victory, moving ahead of the Oilers in the standings.
As mentioned, it was another tough outing against Vegas, who had beaten Calgary 6-2 on Oct. 12 and 6-0 on Nov. 17.
This score was much closer - but that was, of course, little consolation to a Flames team that fell behind 3-0 but battled back to tie it up with three minutes to go in the third period.
Matthew Tkachuk had knotted the contest up, bringing the crowd to its feet with a prolonged deafening roar, but Shea Theodre's tally 1:10 later broke the hearts of the C of Red. Vegas added an empty-netter to seal it.
The Flames are now 3-8 all-time in regular-season matchups against the NHL's most recent expansion cousin.
The loss also marked their first defeat on this five-game homestand after opening with a pair of wins over Columbus and Arizona.
David Rittich got the start after watching Cam Talbot man the cage the previous three tilts, and he made a huge stop early, less than a minute into the contest.
Nicolas Roy held the puck on a two-on-one, trying to freeze Rittich, who came out to challenge, and then attemped to put the puck around and behind him.
Big Save Dave kicked out his right pad to make the stop, then covered the puck a few feet outside his crease, leaving Roy to look up and shake his head as he skated away after the whistle.
The Golden Knights did open the scoring after a great play by Ryan Reaves, the big winger sweeping the puck over the blue-line in one motion and skating in hard to get a shot on Rittich, the rebound sailing out into the slot amid a maze of bodies, the trailing Tomas Nosek firing it home into a wide-open cage at 5:24.
Vegas then capitilized on a two-on-one at 11:49, this time Nick Cousins passing across to another Nick - Holden - who snapped it home before Rittich could come across the blue paint.
The red-hot Mikael Backlund - who had 21 points in his last 15 games; six in his last five - appeared to open the scoring with 4:10 left in the period, tipping a point-shot from TJ Brodie, and then getting a second whack at it and pushing it home past Robin Lehner.
Called a goal on the ice, Vegas challenged for goaltender interference and after review, the officials overturned it.
With captain Mark Giordano in the box for tripping in the second, Backlund skated the puck up the ice short-handed and drove around a Vegas defender, fending him off with one arm, for an in-tight chance that Lehner stopped, hugging his goal-post.
On the ensuing Vegas drive down the ice, Max Pacioretty scored to make it 3-0.
Later, Matthew Tkachuk took a feed from Backlund and fired a shot beat Lehner but clanged off the post.
The Flames finally got on the board at the 8:23 mark, when Milan Lucic picked up a puck inside Calgary's zone and started a three-on-one rush, keeping it and sliding a wrister along the ice five-hole for an unassisted tally.
Theodore then scored and Jonathan Marchessault's empty-netter came at 19:42.
THEY SAID IT:
ANDREW MANGIAPANE ON HIS BAD-LUCK PLAY:
"It's tough. We tied it back up. Then, yeah, tried to put a stick there. It ramped up and went in. Maybe another night it goes out of play or goes in the corner, but it happened to go in. It's tough but we've got to move on from it."
MANGIAPANE ON FALLING BEHIND 3-0:
"You've got to look at the positives. We did battle back. We've got to start better off in the first. That's a big problem that we need to fix. Other than that, I thought we played a pretty solid game."
"We started to get in on the forecheck, get in on the body and started winning more puck battles, and I felt that it was what we weren't doing in the first 15 minutes of the game. Three games in a row now, the other team gets the lead and we're playing from behind, so once we started to play our game, get in on the forecheck and use our body, we started to take the game over. Up until the last three minutes of the game, we did exactly what we needed to do. Tough tip off our own stick underneath the bar. If he shoots it like that ... I guarantee you it's not going in, 99 times out of 100. It's a tough one after working yourself back into the game after being down 3-0."
LUCIC ON BOUNCING BACK ON THURSDAY:
"Especially at this time of year, you can't dwell on anything. You take the good out of the game, you take the bad out of the game and you move on. We have three days to re-group now and what happens here tonight stays tonight and we look forward to what we need to do with our two practice days and a big game against the Islanders on Thursday."
"He got us going. Even in the first, he had a couple big checks and his goal really got our momentum swinging. He was on tonight. When his presence his going, it gets the crowd going, so it was fun to see him going tonight."
DUBE ON HIS OWN PHYSICAL PRESENCE:
"It's playoff hockey right now for us. It's got to be a big part of our game, regardless of your size."
MARK GIORDANO ON THE GAME-WINNING GOAL:
"Honestly, it's a terrible break. That play could happen, I bet you, 10,000 times and to get a tip that goes right where it went? He's doing the right thing. You're taught to go stick on puck, and most times that goes over the net or wide, and we get possession."
"I thought after the first nine minutes we were really good. I thought it was an even hockey game the rest of the way. ... Once you tie it that late, you're feeling good that you've got some momentum back on your side and you're probably going to get a point. ... At this time of year, you've got to play until that last horn goes. The only thing we can do is get back up and get working again. This is what it's like in the playoffs."
The Flames celebrated International Women's Day during the game. See video below ... The Flames now have a record of 20-18-5 against Western Conference opponents, and are 13-10-1 against the Pacific Division ... Tkachuk notched his 60th point of the season with his three-assist performance in Friday's win over Arizona. Tkachuk joins Paul Reinhart, Al MacInnis, Joe Nieuwendyk, Robert Reichel, Jarome Iginla, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreauas one of eight Calgary Flames (1980-81 to present) with two seasons of 60+ points before age 23 ... Speaking of Gaudreau, he tied a franchise record for most points in a period with four (1G, 3A) on Nov. 19, 2018 against the Golden Knights ... Backlundis now 10 games away from 700 in his career ... Giordano is seven away from 900.