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Bitter-Sweet Home Coming

Eric Nystrom (l) gave a spirited effort but he couldn't motivate the Flames as Calgary lost 3-2
Eric Nystrom (l) gave a spirited effort but he couldn't motivate the Flames as Calgary lost 3-2AP/David Zalubowski

“I couldn’t care less if I score in 20 straight games, if the team is winning that’s more important. If the team is losing, it doesn’t matter. It’s nice to put a few in the net but I would much rather be secure in a playoff spot right now.” – Eric Nystrom

It was his first game in the building, but the battered and brittle sheet in the ancient Nassau Coliseum must have seemed like familiar turf to Eric Nystrom, whose father Bob patrolled the wing in the venerable barn for 14 seasons. Best remembered for his Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime against Philadelphia in game six of the 1980 championship final, the elder Nystrom was a magician in game-on-the-line situations with a quartet of OT winners on his Stanley Cup-cluttered resume.

Looking at him in the press box, slim and trim with a fighting spirit grin, one wished he could have donned the Flaming “C” for an evening and given the fading Flames a boost.

Oh, how they could have used it.

The junior Nystrom made the most of his opportunity to share the same spotlight his father basked in with a goal and an assist – his first multi-point effort since November – but his enthusiasm and energetic evening wasn’t shared but the rest of his teammates.

With every remaining game falling into the must-have category, the Flames nailed another nail in their quickly-closing playoff coffin with a devastating 3-2 loss to the lowly NY Islanders.

For the past few days, sideline scribes from across the country have been commenting on the disparity on the playoff ladder between the East and West. Whereas Calgary’s point total would easily have them enjoying a post-season position in the East, that same total leaves them outside and dangling in the West.

With a three game tour through a trio of Eastern time zone cities on their immediate agenda, the Flames had an opportunity to add some volume to the speculation that the East is least. Well, phase one of that opportunity was wasted.

The club failed to capitalize on an Islanders team that was whitewashed the evening before by NY Rangers by wasting three power-play opportunities in the first period, neglecting to protect a 2-1 advantage in the third period and surrendering a pair of final frame goals. All that conspired to make this loss one of the toughest setbacks of the season.

Eight games left. Four points back and mounting. Nashville refuses to lose and Detroit just won't.

Time is running out.

Not a pretty picture.

 

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