The Calgary Flames potentially are staring at their last strike.
Heading into Friday's home game against the cellar-dwelling San Jose Sharks, the Flames (32-26-15, 79 points) are six points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff spot with nine games remaining.
The Flames already knew they need a miracle finish to reach the playoffs, but their chances took another hit in Thursday's 3-2 home loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Disappointment was the buzzword in the aftermath.
"It's always disappointing to lose, especially the situation we're in," defenseman Rasmus Andersson said. "I don't know if it's nerves or we're thinking about it too much. We're not thinking about the game that we're playing if we're thinking about the situation we're in too much. ... Nine games left and a lot of stuff can still happen."
The Flames have plenty to be disappointed about.
Calgary has a ghastly 15-12-15 record in one-goal games. The Vegas clash is the 22nd loss when the Flames outshot their opposition by 10 or more, an NHL record. They are also the only team without a win when trailing after two periods (0-18-3).
The capper, though, is they fell behind by a 2-0 score for the third time in four games. It showed a lack of urgency for a veteran-laden team with the season on the line.
"We weren't ready to go on time," defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. "We need to be ready in these games, these situations, the last 10 to go. We need to be desperate right off the start."
The Sharks (19-38-15, 53 points) have no sympathy for their Pacific Division rivals.
San Jose is at the bottom of the Pacific Division and ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets in the standings. That situation may be good in the hopes of winning the draft lottery and claiming phenom Connor Bedard, but it has been a difficult spell.
A 7-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday leaves the Sharks winless in eight games and only one victory in their last 14 outings (1-9-4).
The Sharks had plenty of turnover leading up to the trade deadline and have been integrating prospects ever since. A night like the one in Vancouver did not come as a surprise.
"When you make so many changes, some of the things that are happening out there are not really the fault of the new players," coach David Quinn said. "They just haven't been accustomed to playing the way you want to play, but the guys that have been here have to keep this thing together and understand we've got a season to finish, and we've got to do a better job finishing on a strong note."
In a rare positive, defenseman Erik Karlsson can reach 100 points in a quest to claim the Norris Trophy. Karlsson has collected 22 goals and 88 points in 72 games. Even his assist against the Canucks could easily be overlooked, though, with veterans failing to lead the way.
"We just killed ourselves in the first because the three goals, we just give it to them," forward Tomas Hertl said. "And after it was too many penalties, and that's how it's going for us lately. ... I am one of the guys here and (it) just can't happen like that."
--Field Level Media