“V” for victory and Vesa

In the hours leading up to Wednesday night’s Flames-Avalanche tussle in Denver, Brent Sutter’s choice of starting goaltender was either a hot topic of debate or, in the case of FlamesNation Game Day Fire Drill maestro TLP, the cue for a routine worthy of a Night at the Improv.

Ah, but Brent Sutter is clearly smarter than the average fan or blogger. The Flames skipper had obviously determined that the Flames this season had made too fine an art of losing games to the Avs despite a wide edge in the flow of play with Miikka Kiprusoff between the pipes. Vesa Toskala, on the other hand, was blissfully unproven in this regard. Or something like that.

In any event, an early shorthanded goal, two buried pucks on the Flames’ first three shots and a 3-0 lead by the seventh minute of the second period took the focus off the backup netminder as Calgary registered a 3-2 victory over the Avs.

The result reverses a pattern of 3-2 losses to the Avs this season, with half of the four previous setbacks the result of squandered 2-0 leads. More importantly for Sutter’s gang, the win prevents the Flames’ bean-counter chances at earning a playoff spot from skrinking to a a dirty dozen percentage points. Instead, the guys with the computer simulators and slide-rulers now give Calgary a 1-in-4 chance. In other words, no need to stake out a good spot from which to watch the parade quite yet.

The Flames foiled the Avs’ spot-’em-two-tallies-and-then-spring-the-trap gameplan by scoring the game’s first three goals — two by Rene Bouque (one shorthanded, one on the power play) and a single by Eric Nystrom. The Flames either faded or prematurely went into a shell after that or else the Avs woke up just in time for a quick game of Too Little, Too Late as Chris Durno and, in the final minute with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Milan Hejduk scored the Colorado goals.

Calgary creeps to within a point of eighth-place Detroit and four of seventh-place Nashville. The Red Wings hold a game in hand on both clubs.

The win did not come without a price — winger Curtis Glencross hobbled off the ice in the third period after colliding knee on knee with Matt Hendricks and did not return.

The real race

Forget the scrap for eighth place in the West, how about the battle for best ‘stache on the Flames being waged by Ian White, who favours the young Raymond Bourque model, and Nigel Dawes, who’s going with a junior version of the Dennis Maruk? This needs to be a poll.

Flames lines

Bourque-Stajan-Iginla
Hagman-Langkow-Kotalik
Dawes-Conroy-Moss
Nystrom-Mayers-Glencross

Defence pairings

Giordano-Sarich
Bouwmeester-Staios
Regehr-White

Three Stars

  1. Rene Bourque
  2. Peter Mueller
  3. Eric Nystrom

Fight Card

In the first period, Avs defenceman Ryan Wilson thought it would be good idea to tangle with veteran nose-bender Jamal Mayers. Guess what? It wasn’t.

The Big Save

Chris Durno, of all people, found himself on a breakaway in the second period and went with the shifty move to the backhand. Vesa Toskala’s leg was just long enough and the post near enough that the Flames netminder was able to repel the attack.

The Big Hit

Former Flames property Ryan Wilson wallpapered Nigel Dawes into the boards in front of the Colorado bench in the first period. The impact was so great, the bench gate was jarred open.

What It Means

The Flames death watch goes on hiatus for at least 48 hours.

What’s Next

It doesn’t get any easier for the local lads as a Friday-night Saddledome date with Jamie McGinn and the San Jose Sharks looms. Meanwhile, the team Calgary is chasing — Detroit — faces 30th-place Edmonton that night.