CALGARY, AB -- On Friday morning, the Calgary Flames woke up sitting in ninth spot in the Western Conference - still very much in the hunt for a postseason position.
However, they could have easily been sitting in a playoff spot after Thursday night's clash with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Heading into the second period with a two-goal lead, the Flames took their foot off the pedal and the Coyotes capitalized. The two-goal cushion vanished at 17:08 of the second period when Shane Doan tipped in an Oliver Ekman-Larsson slapper to notch the equalizer.
Veteran Ray Whitney scored at the midway mark of the third frame and it took an Olli Jokinen power play marker with just 1:46 left in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Calgary went on to lose in a shooutout and while the point they gained keeps barely ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the standings, head coach Brent Sutter was understandably upset with his troops squandering their lead.
"The goals we gave up against us are, in this time of year, you can’t make those kind of mistakes," he said in his post-game address. "It's playoff hockey for us. You can't make those (mistakes). That's the bottom line.
"We'll take the point but we can't be happy with giving up the other point either."
The players also expressed their dismay after the game, noting they had no excuses for their performance in the last two periods.
"It’s like we put it on a silver plate for them," winger Alex Tanguay said with a shake of his head. "We gave away a point, and gave them two on top of that.
"It’s very frustrating. We kept making mistakes. We’re at the time of year we can’t let it slip like that, especially against that team. They did it last game against L.A., coming back from four down. They just stuck with the game plan and believed they were going to get it done."
There were positives to be taken from the shootout loss. Yes, the Flames play slipped in the second and third periods but they had a strong first frame.
They pressured the Coyotes in their own zone and pushed themselves ahead thanks to some luck (Tanguay's cross-ice pass banking off Lauri Korpikovski and into the back of the net) and heads up plays (Tanguay's feed to Matt Stajan in the slot).
Their play in the neutral zone was admirable, playing responsibly and with a keen awareness. Turnovers were limited and if the Coyotes made an error, someone in a red jersey was there to scoop up the mistake.
And, as per usual, Miikka Kiprusoff was there to bail his team out of trouble when they faltered in their own zone.
"We had a really good first," captain Jarome Iginla lamented. "Any time you’re up 2-0, at home, after a period, you’d like to be able to seal it. So we look to ourselves to be better in that situation."
With this loss leaving a particularly bitter taste in their mouths, the team vowed to learn from the mistakes they made on Thursday evening and regain the confidence they had earlier in the month.
"The only real way to get it back is to get back to the process and make things go right," Mike Cammalleri said. "The result kind of reinforces that confidence."