The Calgary Flames needed a small miracle. They almost got it, too.
The Flames trailed the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 in the third period of Game 4 in their second-round playoff series when Rasmus Andersson fired a puck 132 feet from the Flames' blue line that somehow beat Oilers goaltender Mike Smith to tie the game.
It was an improbable play that brought Calgary all the way back from a 3-0 first-period deficit with the hopes of evening the series at 2-2.
That hope was swiftly extinguished when Calgary couldn't hold the fort, falling 5-3 in Game 4 and behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Calgary now faces elimination in Thursday's Game 5. The Flames have never overcome a 3-1 series hole in franchise history.
"I thought we showed a lot of resolve or resilience," Flames coach Darryl Sutter said. "It was a winnable game for us for sure tonight, and we damn near did it. I like how we played. I know we're in a hole. But we hung around tonight. I thought we played a good game. It was close."
The first period started on a disastrous note for the Flames. Only 21 seconds in, Jacob Markstrom made a poor attempt to play the puck from behind his own net that landed on the stick of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in front: 1-0 Edmonton.
Calgary was down 3-0 by then on the scoreboard, but not in spirits.
"Honestly, I don't think we played that bad in the first period," Andersson said. "It was a game of bounces. They got two in the first period, and we showed a lot of effort to crawl back into the game. We played a really tight third period. It was the fourth goal [scored by Nugent-Hopkins] that sucked the life out of us."
Calgary registered its own goals 36 seconds apart in the second frame from Elias Lindholm on the power play and then Mikael Backlund to start mounting a comeback. When Andersson pocketed his long-range goal, he wasn't too surprised, given how the game had gone.
"As soon as I shot it, I saw it went towards the net and I saw [Smith] didn't see it," Andersson said. "I thought to myself real quick, 'This might go in.' And it did. It was a game of bounces both ways. They got one [off Markstrom's error] and we got one."
Markstrom made key saves down the stretch for Calgary in Game 4, including against Leon Draisaitl on the power play right before Andersson tied it. He finished the game with 21 saves on the night (.840 SV%) and will need his best performance of the postseason in Game 5 to keep Calgary going.
"It's part of battling back," Sutter said of Markstrom's night. "You've got to dig in and grab on."
Still, the Flames might need a few more bounces to see this series extended. While Calgary's mood was upbeat after Tuesday's loss, it won't shrink the mountain ahead.
"I thought this was the best game we played in this series," Andersson insisted. "We all believe in our group. We've been a good team all year and been strong on home ice. We have to go home and focus on winning one game at a time. No reason we can't win three in a row."
"There's a reason why we play seven [games]," added Backlund. "We played well tonight. We showed really good character as a group and battled back. Could have gone either way. We know we're strong at home."