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Flames can clinch playoff spot at home vs. Vegas

Sportsnaut
Apr 4, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) in action against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A frantic third-period comeback in their last outing earned the Vegas Golden Knights a point in the standings, they still ended up dropping back in the chase for a playoff spot.

It’s a result the Golden Knights (40-29-5, 85 points) can ill afford to replicate as they chase the Los Angeles Kings for the third spot in the Pacific Division and the Dallas Stars for the second (final) wild-card spot.

In either race, they can’t keep dropping points as they did Tuesday, when the Kings and Stars both claimed victories.

The Knights’ playoff quest continues Thursday night when they continue their Western Canada road swing against the Pacific Division-leading Calgary Flames (45-19-9, 99 points).

Vegas has eight regular-season games remaining and entered Wednesday games sitting three points behind the Kings, but with the Golden Knights holding a game in hand. They also trail the Stars by three points, but Dallas holds a game in hand on Vegas (as do the Nashville Predators who are one point ahead of the Stars, four ahead of Vegas).

The Golden Knights overcame a two-goal, third-period deficit to force overtime Tuesday thanks to Shea Theodore’s tally with 42 seconds remaining in regulation, but then dropped the 5-4 overtime decision to the Vancouver Canucks.

“Proud of the way the guys battled back,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “Getting points this time of year is big, but that said, we’re shooting for two, not one.”

Going forward, though, the Golden Knights are seeing more key players return from injury. The most recent is captain Mark Stone, who suited up in Vancouver after missing 26 games due to a back injury.

“We got eight games left, but I’ve never stepped foot on the ice in the same uniform as Jack Eichel,” said Stone, whose return could ignite a power play that has been skunked in seven consecutive games. “So I think we’re still reading off each other, but it will come.”

The Flames can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Vegas after extending their winning streak to five games Tuesday with a 5-3 comeback victory over the Seattle Kraken. They trailed 3-1 heading into the third period, but Johnny Gaudreau collected a pair of assists to reach the 100-point mark for the first time in his career — becoming the first for Calgary since Theo Fleury in 1992-93.

Also, Matthew Tkachuk collected his second career hat trick in the game.

“I know us as linemates and teammates would be lying to you if we said we weren’t trying to get it for him and thinking about it for most of the last couple of games when he’s sitting at 99,” said Tkachuk, who has a career-high 92 points on the season, with a good chance to reach the century mark. “It’s pretty cool to be linked to that with him, so that’s very cool for me and it just speaks to the year he’s having, and we’re not done yet.”

Calgary holds a nine-point lead on the Edmonton Oilers for the division crown.

“I’m pretty happy with the way we fought back there in the third,” said Gaudreau, who entered Wednesday fourth in the league’s scoring race. “We haven’t had too many comeback wins this year, so it’s nice to get that one. It was a big one for us.”

The Flames could also receive a boost with a pair of defensemen poised to return to action. Oliver Kylington has missed six games and Erik Gudbranson three.

–Field Level Media