Calgary Flames playoff hopes dampened with 3-0 loss to Wild

The up-and-coming Minnesota Wild continue to ride the coattails of their red-hot goaltenders.

Filip Gustavsson made 31 saves on Saturday night to thwart the Wild in a 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames.

Gustavsson is improving to 6-0-2 in his last eight starts, having conceded just 11 goals in that span and posting a glittering .956 save percentage.

“He was great,” said Matt Boldy, who shared the pace with line-mate Joel Eriksson Ek with a goal and an assist each on offense. “He stood on his head and made saves when he had to, saves he should make and saves he shouldn’t make. He makes it easy for us.”

Gustavsson’s best stop came midway through the third period when he stopped Tyler Toffoli on a short breakaway to hold the 1-0.

“He came down. I think he had a penalty against me before. I thought he was looking up a bit and angling his racquet like he was going to shoot. I just went down and he shot right at my arm,” he told Gustavsson, who is improving to 17-8-3 over the season.

The Wild made it 2-0 with some odd play at 1:49 p.m. Frederick Gaudreau’s shot from the slot deflected high in the air and landed on top of the Flames’ net before rebounding back into the crease, where it was shot by Marcus Foligno was bunkered from the air.

Boldy put the game on hold at 4:30 p.m., burying a rebound from Eriksson Ek.

“I have to score, that’s the bottom line,” said Toffoli, who leads the Flames with 25 goals. “It was frustrating that we lost by a goal and couldn’t find a way to stay in the game. A game like today was decisive for us and of course we missed it.”

CLOCK | Ferocious Resistance to Flames in Calgary:

Wild shut down Flames as the fighting for Calgary continued

Joel Eriksson Ek’s goal in the first period was the winner as Minnesota beat Calgary 3-0.

Minnesota (36-21-6) has won four straight games and accumulated points in nine straight games (8-0-1). The Wild remain second in the Central Division, three points behind the Dallas Stars.

“This is a really important season. For us, these games are really big,” said Eriksson Ek. “It’s a close race and we know that. Hopefully we can build on that.”

The struggles continue for Calgary (27-23-13) who are winless in their last five (0-3-2).

The Flames’ playoff hopes also continue to dwindle. They are now seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets, who hold the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The Nashville Predators are also a point ahead of Calgary with three games in hand.

“It was flat for us from start to finish,” said Flames forward Milan Lucic. “Especially at this time of year you should be excited and have plenty of energy to play every night. So that’s up to us as individuals and up to us as a team.”

Things have been abysmal at home ice lately, where they are 1-5-1 in the last seven. Calgary scored just four goals from 114 shots in a 0-2-1 final score in their home stand. For the final three minutes, boos erupted from the Saddledome crowd.

“It’s a passionate fanbase and obviously it’s tough for us,” said Flames defender Rasmus Andersson. “But you understand we haven’t been very good lately and if that’s how they feel, everyone on this team just has to look at themselves in the mirror.”

Gustavsson ranks second in both goals versus average (1.99) and save (0.933), trailing only Linus Ullmark of Boston in both categories.

Jacob Markstrom, who was struggling for most of the season, turned over his second straight strong showing with 29 stops, only to again find himself without offensive support. He made 32 stops in a 2-1 loss to Toronto on Thursday.

“It’s two games in a row where we have really good goalies,” said Flames coach Darryl Sutter. “The goalkeeping game gave us a chance to win but very little running support for him, especially from our top guys.”

In his last five without a win, Markstrom’s record falls to 15-17-8.

The only goal of the first 40 minutes came from a double defense at 14:52 of the first.

After a pass from Jon Klinberg, Boldy’s shot from high position was deflected first by Marcus Johansson and then changed direction again by Eriksson Ek’s stick.

While Jon Klingberg made his Wild debut and Johansson played his second game, the latest of the three trade-deadline acquisitions for Minnesota was not in the lineup because Oskar Sundqvist has not yet joined the club. In the Flames, newly acquired Troy Stecher moved into the third pairing with Nikita Zadorov. Nick Ritchie, acquired in the same deal with Arizona, did not play.

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