The most common theme of every game now is that it is a must-win, but this was definitely a game that epitomized that philosophy. The Flames entered the game trailing the 7th place Coyotes by three points, while a win wouldn’t quite put them in 8th, they could close the gap and maintain the games in hand they had on both the Yotes and the Avs, who earlier lost in a shoot-out.
You almost had a feeling that it was going to be a good night when just 17 seconds into the game, Sven Baertschi scored his third goal in his fourth game. Keith Yandle made an ill-advised pass across his crease that was snatched up by Baertschi in front of the net; a couple of moves and a great backhand over Smith, and it was 1-0 Calgary. After that, as per the norm, it was up to Kipper to do his thing, including absolutely robbing Ekman-Larsson on what looked to be a sure goal. Despite Calgary being out-chanced 6-3 by Phoenix, the Flames managed to take the lead into the intermission
The Flames would extend their lead at 5:16 of the second period, when Jarome Iginla took the long-lead pass from Mark Giordano and then as we have seen so many times from the captain, put the wrist shot right by Smith on the high short side. Pretty ugly goal for Smith, but many tenders before him have done the same thing.
Phoenix would get on the board at 17:37, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson getting some measure of revenge on being stoned earlier by Kiprusoff when he took a nice pass by the ageless Ray Whitney and finishing into the open net.
Calgary dominated the scoring chances in the second, 5-2, and at 18:10 of the middle frame, Matt Stajan scored to extend the lead to 3-1; and his personal point streak to 5 games. It wasn’t as impressive as some of his recent goals as the centering pass from Cory Sarich bounced off a Yote, then Stajan’s knee and in the net. What was impressive on the goal, was that even upon review, it showed that Matt had the presence of mind to touch the puck with his stick before it entered the net.
Only one goal in the third period, but it was definitely the nicest of the night. At 14:56, Alex Tanguay carried the puck into the Phoenix zone and then dropped the puck to Glencross just over the blueline to avoid the off-side. Tanguay then drove past the defender and took the pass back from Glencross. Making two beautiful moves on Smith, Tanguay scored short-handed and widened the margin with the Coyotes to 4-1. the Flames were out-chanced again 5-2, but Tanguay’s shortty was a momentum breaker for Phoenix, and from there, Calgary took the vital 2 pts; in regulation.
1. Mark Giordano
2. Miikka Kiprusoff
3. Jarome Iginla
Even though Calgary was out-shot and out-chanced, they made the most of the chances and did so with good timing. Iginla’s 31st of the season and 515th of his career ties him with Pierre Turgeon; Next on the list for Iggy is Dale Hawerchuk with 518 goals. The win was #309 for Kipper, which ties him at 22nd all-time with Evgeni Nabakov.
Was this the make or break game for Calgary’s bid into the post season? Probably not, but it was one of those wins that they needed, would make their lives somewhat easier, and frankly didn’t have last year when their efforts fell short. It was a win, in regulation, against a team they were chasing inside the top eight.
The win tonight leaves them in
9th place 10th place (Sharks won in a shootout), but just one point behind both Colorado (8th) and Phoenix (7th), but they have a game in hand on the Yotes and two on the Avs; once again opportunity knocks for the Flames. No time to celebrate as the team is right back in action tomorrow against Edmonton, and it’s not a game they can look past. The Oil beat the Flames in the last BoA and the only thing they have left to play for is to be one of the factors to keep the Flames out of the playoffs. It’s a game the Flames still need to win, and they are going to have to put up a solid effort.
Has Sven played his last game for Calgary? Who knows but it would be nice to see the kid for maybe just one more game and see what he can do in a good ol’ fashioned Battle of Alberta! Game time goes at 7:30 MT (Sportsnet & Fan 960).