Whenever a playoff race is as tight as it is in the Western Conference, the teams that finish on the outside looking-in can often reflect back on a single game - one result - to pinpoint the exact the moment when the playoff dream was extinguished.
For the Calgary Flames, that moment likely came Sunday night in Death Valley, otherwise known as the Honda Centre, otherwise known as the home of the Anaheim Ducks. The Flames had fought valiantly to overcome an early three-goal deficit and were nursing a 4-3 into the final three minutes when Rene Bourque - who was engaged in a running altercation with Ducks' rookie Brandon McMillan - was dinged for a curious two-minute interference penalty.
The Ducks' Teemu Selanne scored on the subsequent power play and then Corey Perry won it for Anaheim in overtime.
It amounted to a three-point swing. Calgary was in a position to earn two points and deny the Ducks any. Instead, Anaheim wound up with two and Calgary settled for one. The result left the Flames 10th in the Western Conference heading into tonight's date with the Los Angeles Kings, a team that has only four regulation losses in its last 25 outings. Most discouraging of all from a Calgary perspective is that pesky games-played category, which shows 74 already in the books, the 75th coming tonight. It would be one thing to be a few points up - as the Phoenix Coyotes are, sitting at 89 - with the same 74 games played as Calgary.
That will provide the Coyotes with a cushion as teams make up their games in hand. Meanwhile, the Flames will practically need to run the table here to think they have any reasonable hope of making up the necessary ground in the last three weeks of a season, where five points still separates seven teams in contention for the final five playoff berths.
"You've got to move on quickly," said coach Brent Sutter, post-game, acknowledging: "It's hard leaving here when you know you should have had two points."
And just as importantly, when you know you could have denied the Ducks their two as well.