Wild put 43 shots on goal but lose to Flames

Wild put 43 shots on goal but lose to Flames

Flames 2 Wild 1

CALGARY, Alberta —Protecting a lead was a problem for the Wild the last time they met the Flames, in their most recent game before a three-day lull in the schedule.

Four times the Wild blew an advantage to Calgary last Sunday before ultimately falling in a shootout 5-4, a missed opportunity that only seemed to become more costly in time since the teams the Wild are chasing in the Western Conference gained points while they were idle.

But in its return to action Thursday, against those familiar Flames, the Wild didn’t have a chance to improve on their play when they’re ahead.

That’s because they never moved in front, instead playing catchup until a 2-1 loss at Scotiabank Saddledome was confirmed —the fourth game the Wild have dropped in their past five (1-3-1).

Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau scored the decisive goal, and goalie Cam Talbot made 42 saves to stymie the Wild —which looked like a team coming off an extended break.

Goalie Alex Stalock was engaged, making a season-high 35 saves, and assisting on the Wild’s lone goal —a setup that was arguably the best the team had all night. The offense was mostly timid and disjointed, with center Victor Rask and defenseman Matt Dumba providing the most consistent pressure.

And like it was Sunday, when the Flames converted twice on the power play, special teams were a factor.

Just 4 minutes, 39 seconds into the first period, Calgary opened the scoring on the power play when Derek Ryan tipped in a Noah Hanifin shot —a finish that continued a woeful run for the Wild’s penalty kill.

Over its last 64 short-handed situations, the Wild has surrendered 21 goals. Calgary ended up 1 for 2.

As for the Wild, they blanked on their two chances but their only tally came early in the second period quickly after a Wild advantage expired.

Stalock’s stretch pass sent winger Mats Zuccarello into the Flames’ zone on a partial breakaway, and he wired the puck past Talbot at 38 seconds. The assist was Stalock’s first of the season, fourth of his career and third with the Wild.

Overall, the team is 6 for 46 on the power play over its last 17 games. The Wild didn’t manage a single shot on either of their advantages, while the Flames had nine.

At 5-on-5, then, is where the Wild had their best looks, but the team couldn’t capitalize again after Zuccarello’s goal.

Dumba, who hasn’t scored in his last 26 games, was among the most dangerous players on the ice for either squad, but his shots either eluded the net or were pawed down by Talbot. One of Talbot’s slickest stops came in the second period when Rask fed Dumba for a redirect in front for what looked like a slam-dunk goal, but Talbot flashed his glove to keep the puck out of the net.

In total, Dumba had six shots on net —tied with winger Kevin Fiala for the team high —and another four that were blocked or missed the net.

And the Wild reverted to chase mode again 9:38 into the second when a deflected puck off winger Marcus Foligno’s stick went right to Gaudreau, who kicked the puck up to his stick and flung it five-hole on Stalock.

With the loss, the gap between the Wild and the second and final wild card in the West widened to six points.

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