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No tomorrow: a brief history of the Flames and 3-1 series deficits

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
5 months ago
The Calgary Flames are in a tough spot, friends. They head into Thursday night’s Game 5 with the Edmonton Oilers trailing 3-1 in their best-of-seven series. The Flames have been in this situation nine times previously.
Here’s how those nine series unfolded.

1981 Stanley Cup semi-final

After beating Chicago and Philadelphia in their first post-season in Calgary, the Flames hit a roadblock in the form of the Minnesota North Stars. They split a pair of games at the Corral before heading back to the Twin Cities, where the Flames lost both games (6-4 and 7-4) to go down 3-1 in the series.
The Flames won Game 5 by a 3-1 score at the Corral to force Game 6, but they lost Game 6 by a 5-3 score to be eliminated from the playoffs.

1983 Smythe Division final

The first-ever playoff Battle of Alberta went poorly for Calgary. They lost the first three games (6-3, 5-1 and 10-2) before avoiding the sweep with a 6-5 win at the Corral. However, the Flames lost Game 5 by a 9-1 score.

1984 Smythe Division final

The following year, we had a Battle of Alberta rematch in the second round. The Flames went down 3-1: they split two games in Edmonton, then the Oilers won both games at the Saddledome. The Flames won Games 5 and 6 by identical 5-4 scores, winning in overtime in Game 6. But that’s as far as the Flames got, as the Oilers closed out the series in Game 7 by a 7-4 score.

1986 Stanley Cup final

The Flames ran out of steam by the time they reached their first Stanley Cup Final. They won Game 1, then lost the next three games to go down 3-1, then lost Game 5 as Montreal completed the Gentleman’s Sweep and eliminated them in five games.

1987 Smythe Division semi-final

The Jets won Games 1, 2 and 4 against the Flames, while Calgary managed a Game 3 win. Facing a 3-1 deficit, the Flames won Game 5 to extend the series, but then the Jets won 6-1 to close out the series in six games. (Weirdly enough, the first five games were all decided by one or two goals.)

1990 Smythe Division semi-final

The Kings and Flames changed wins in the first two games, then Los Angeles won a close game (2-1 in overtime) and a blowout (12-4) to take a 3-1 series lead. The Flames won Game 5 by a 6-1 score, but Los Angeles slammed the door shut with a 4-3 double overtime victory to end the series in six games.

1991 Smythe Division semi-final

After splitting the first two games, Edmonton won Games 3 and 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. But the Flames battled to win each of the next two games – including Theo Fleury’s dramatic Game 6 overtime winner – to force Game 7. Unfortunately, that’s where the magic ended, and the Oilers won 5-4 in overtime to advance.

2015 Western Conference semi-final

After beating Vancouver to advance past the first round, the Flames hit a wall in the form of the Ducks. The Ducks won both games in Anaheim to go up 2-0 before the Flames won Game 3 in overtime to cut their series lead to 2-1. But the Ducks won Game 4 to go up 3-1, then closed out the series in five games with an overtime victory.

2019 Western Conference quarterfinal

The most recent series where the Flames went down 3-1 was in 2019, where the Flames won Game 1 against Colorado, then lost three in a row to go down 3-1… and then lost Game 5, as the Avalanche completed the Gentleman’s Sweep.
In series where the Flames are down 3-1, the Flames are 5-4 in Game 5. In series where the Flames are down 3-1, the Flames are 0-9 in the series themselves, though they’ve managed to battle to force a seventh game a couple of times.
The Oilers have lost a series they led 3-1, though. They led the Kings 3-1 in the first round in 1989, then lost three straight to lose that series in seven games.
All-time, teams that are down 3-1 win just 9.5% of their series, but that percentage jumps up to 12.5% when (like the Flames do) that team has home ice.

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