The Calgary Flames are not short of incentives these days.
They get up every morning, take note of the Western Conference’s clump — and their tenuous place within it.
That alone keeps them spurred.
“There are so many reasons we can look at why we’re playing,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “We can create a bigger distance from the (Dallas) Stars.
“But, the bottom line is we need to stay in the pack — that’s our main motivation.”
And there had been plenty of moxie on display.
Needing a series of comebacks, the Flames, now 7-2-3 in their last dozen, managed to force overtime.
But they dropped a 4-3 shootout decision — Tyler Seguin with the telling strike — in National Hockey League action Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Doing the damage for the local side …
Johnny Gaudreau scored once. Saw that coming, eh?
OK then. How about this?
Deryk Engelland — twice! — provided equalizers, including one midway through the third period.
“We need scoring from everyone,” said Hartley. “That’s so important because the games are so tight. If you get two from different lines, suddenly you’re a much better hockey club. Every team is hoping for secondary scoring.”
The Stars had taken control of the night with three second-period goals — Ales Hemsky, with two, and Jamie Benn.
“I don’t know where they rank, but they’re very dangerous,” Hartley had noted of the guests. “You look at (Tyler) Seguin on one line and (Jason) Spezza on the other, Benn, they have so many great players.
“It’s going to be a great challenge. We play kind of a similar style. It should be a fun game.”
The Flames — against the highest-scoring team in the conference, against the third-best road power play in the NHL — knew they had to be careful.
They couldn’t afford a track meet.
But in the first period, Markus Granlund nicked Jordie Benn in the noggin. The verdict — a double-minor for high-sticking.
The Stars piled up five shots in the four minutes of man advantage — but no goals. The crowd roared when Granlund scooted out of the sin bin.
In the dying minutes of the first period, the Flames rustled up their best chances — T.J. Brodie fed Sean Monahan and the young centre drilled a shot that required a fine save from Kari Lehtonen; Mikael Backlund whistled a rising wrister off the ironwork behind the Dallas goalie.
But before the Flames could lurch into the dressing room for a regrouping, Lance Bouma celebrated his 25th birthday by shoving defenceman John Klingberg into Lehtonen.
On the resulting power play — with Bouma off for roughing — Ramo made a super blocker save on a cracking shot by Spezza.
And the Flames, surviving six minutes of Dallas power play, left the ice with a 0-0 score.
Scorelessness did not last.
In the opening minute of the second period, Hemsky glided through the Flames’ zone and, using Kris Russell as a screen, placed a wrister over Ramo’s blocker.
The Flames had a chance to recover when Antoine Roussel went off for interference at 3:46 and Cody Eakin for tripping at 4:49.
But the local side, despite a couple of good looks, could not beat Lehtonen.
Then, with Joe Colborne off for holding, Jason Spezza, with a nice move off the half-wall, found Benn with a perfect pass. And the Stars captain tapped in his 12th goal (in 19 games) against the Flames at 10:47.
You know what comes next.
The Flames erupted — two goals in 65 seconds.
On a tic-tac-toe sequence, Gaudreau — with help from his friends, Monahan and Hudler — coerced a wrister through the pads of Lehtonen at 12:44.
Calgary’s top line came close less than a minute later.
But Bouma, controlling the puck deep in Dallas territory, heeded the call of Engelland at the right point. The Flames defender, aiming for his first goal of the season, snapped a low shot into the Stars’ net to make it 2-2.
But late in the stanza with the teams playing four-on-four — Spezza off for tripping at 17:43, Raphael Diaz off for tripping at 18:58 — the Stars connected.
At the Dallas blue line, Shawn Horcoff stripped the puck from Bouma — hauling down the Flames winger in the process — and, with fans shrieking for a penalty, found Hemsky with a perfect pass. The speedy winger knocked it with only 15.1 seconds left on the clock.