NHL Hockey

Flames taking stock ahead of Game 4 vs. Avalanche

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The age-old theory of playoff hockey says whether it's a loss in overtime or a one-sided beatdown, it's still just one loss.

What the Calgary Flames experienced in their Game 3 defeat on Monday night -- a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche -- appears to be more than just any old Stanley Cup playoff defeat. It was a much-needed kick in the pants.

"We've got to regroup here and stick together as a team, but we know that our compete level, number one, has to go way up," captain Mark Giordano told NHL.com. "We've got to be smarter with our decisions with the puck, our pinches, everything. Everything across the board. There wasn't much good, honestly, throughout the night. (We) made that team look and feel good all night. We need to come back, regroup, and we need to win this next one."

The Avalanche hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series, with Game 4 on Wednesday in Denver, and are riding high. Not only are they coming off a game in which they thoroughly dominated the Western Conference's regular season champs -- final shots were 56-29 in favor of the Avs -- but also were clicking so well even the newest member of the team got in the scoring spree.

Defenseman Cale Makar, the 2017 fourth overall draft pick who joined the team at the conclusion of his NCAA campaign with the University of Massachusetts, jumped into the fray and scored the game-winning goal.

"It's a cool moment," said Makar, who is from Calgary and became only the seventh player in NHL history to record a goal while making his NHL debut in the playoffs. "You've been working your whole life for this point, but obviously you're not done yet."

The Avalanche are halfway to completing an upset but trying to keep things in check.

"We're just trying to get to four wins," said Nathan MacKinnon, who scored twice in Monday's tilt. "We're being very aggressive, and guys were involved with a shooting mentality. We feel good, but at the same time, we got to move on. It's two wins now, but we need to regroup and get ready for a huge game Wednesday."

A huge game that the Flames, who have lost eight straight playoff road games dating back to 2015, know must be their best of the series.

"Everyone has to give a little more. Everybody. Me included," goalie Mike Smith said. "It's hard to win at this time of year and everyone needs to play a little outside their comfort zone to do what it takes to win."

The Flames must play a smarter game, too, limit the Colorado attack and avoid the flurry of foolish penalties that completely changed the momentum in Monday's clash.

First, Giordano said, would be believing they can turn the tables.

"Right now, they're feeling good about themselves and they're playing with a lot of confidence. There is no reason for us to be playing with any sort of fear of failure," he told Postmedia after Tuesday's practice. "Let's go out and have fun and play with confidence."

The Avalanche were without two regulars, as defenseman Samuel Girard missed his first game of the playoffs with an upper-body injury and forward Derick Brassard was out due to illness.

--Field Level Media

Updated April 17, 2019

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