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Flames plagued by inconsistent play again in loss to Senators

You could see it in Mark Giordano’s strides as he successfully chased down a player 15 years younger on an overtime breakaway.

You could see it in the diving leg save made by Juuso Valimaki late in a 3-3 game.

Unmistakable signs of desperation.

Finally, after two periods.

It was almost as if players started hearing reports that a combine driven by an infuriated farmer was spotted racing south on Hwy 2.

Darryl Sutter’s actual arrival at the Dome is slated for Tuesday’s practice, at which time nothing can be done about the Flames’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

However, you can bet the latest in a season of inconsistent outings will be brought up by the 62-year-old holding the straight-bladed Sher-Wood.

“That’s the tough part – you want to see that all the time,” acting coach Ryan Huska said of the team’s inspiring third period play, which erased a 3-1 deficit.

“There were a lot of good showings from a lot of different players (in the third), but at this time of year you can’t just be talking about one good period.”

But we are. Again.

And that’s why Geoff Ward was fired Thursday, to be replaced by Sutter on Tuesday, following two more losses and an odd handful of days without him courtesy of COVID-19 protocol.

As Calgary’s third loss to last-place Ottawa illustrated, the Jolly Rancher can’t get here quick enough to try saving a season rapidly getting away from the Flames.

“Obviously it’s a unique situation when you have a coach who’s not there, but we’re trying to control what we can,” said Noah Hanifin, whose second goal in as many games completed an emotional comeback with eight minutes left in a final frame in which the Flames enjoyed a 16-3 shot advantage.

“Obviously he demands success and everywhere he’s went he’s won. That’s something we’re looking forward to having in our locker room. I’m excited to see what he brings and what he expects from us. It’s going to be good for our team.”

As part of the team’s precipitous drop in emotion and intensity from Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Edmonton, the Flames failed on three first-period power plays in a game led 2-0 by Ottawa after one.

Zac Rinaldo’s fight with Austin Watson injected some life into the Flames, who scored soon thereafter when Giordano’s point blast tipped off a defender’s skate and found its way through traffic.

Jacob Markstrom made several big saves in the second but surrendered a goal to Colin White, setting up a third in which Johnny Gaudreau’s power play goal (the only conversion in eight tries) kick-started the comeback completed by Hanifin.

“Marky stops two breakaways in the second that help us get the point, but we’ve got to find a way to get two,’ said Giordano, who tracked down Drake Batherson in overtime to help send the game into a shootout eventually won by the 22-year-old Senators sensation.

“It stings right now — we know how important every point is. In the third we had a great push, but we’ve got to find a way to come out with two points. The effort is there and guys’ hearts are in the right place. But the desperation really has to be from the drop of the puck.”

Valimaki helped preserve the lone point late in the third after Markstrom misplayed a puck behind the net that squirted out to a wide-open Connor Brown, whose shot at the empty net was stopped by the diving defenceman, earning a hug from his netminder.

However, after Matthew Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle traded goals in the shootout, Batherson cast another pall over the Flames’ season with the winner as Ottawa’s fourth shooter.

We’ll start to find out Thursday, when Montreal comes to town, if Sutter’s arrival has come too late.

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