DENVER – The playoff picture for the Calgary Flames seemed pretty bleak a little more than two weeks ago, but their prospects sure are looking much brighter now. The same can’t be said for the free-falling Colorado Avalanche, whose nine-point lead over the Flames on March 17 now has completely evaporated.
The Flames got a big-game performance from goalie Miikka Kiprusoff Friday night as they continues their remarkable resurgence with a 2-1 victory over the Avalanche before a sellout crowd of 18,007 at the Pepsi Center.
Calgary, which has won three games in a row and six of its past nine, is even with the Avalanche at 89 points. Colorado, which has lost four games in a row and seven of its past eight, still owns the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference because it has more wins (41-40) and has played one fewer game. The Flames have four games remaining, two at home. The Avalanche has five games left, three at home.
“It’s a huge win,” said Kiprusoff, whose 35 saves included robbing Chris Stewart on the doorstep with 5:54 remaining to keep the Flames in front. “One pretty lucky save there, and I would take that any time. They’re a real good team around the net. They have some skill and they throw some passes there.
“The Avalanche were ahead of us and we knew we had to win tonight and we were ready. We worked hard and it’s a huge two points and we have to continue to play the same way.”
Stewart, who had a game-high eight shots on goal, felt he should have converted Paul Stastny’s feed and tied the game.
“I just need to get hungrier there,” said Stewart, who leads the Avalanche with 28 goals but has gone five games without one. “Nine times out of 10, I’d like to think I’d bury that. (Kiprusoff) is a world-class goaltender. He showed why he’s been on top of the league for the last couple of years. We just waited too long to test him tonight.”
Rene Bourque, who's been a terror against the Avalanche all season, scored what proved to be the decisive goal at 2:11 of the third period. After getting the puck to Cory Sarich at the right point, Bourque parked in the slot and tipped the defenseman’s shot behind goalie Craig Anderson for a 2-0 lead.
“We just had a good shift down low behind the goal line, and I just tried to take it to the net,” Bourque said. “The puck popped out to the point and I got stick on it and it found a way in.”
Bourque scored six goals against Colorado this season, including a pair in the Flames’ pivotal 3-2 win in Denver on March 17 that began his team’s surge and the Avalanche’s downward spiral.
“It’s awesome,” Bourque said. “Everyone in the locker room knew we could do it. It (was) just a matter of getting the job done and taking it game by game. We’ve been successful these last few games. We got a lot of help. Obviously (the Avalanche) is on a little bit of a skid, so we were able to gain some valuable points.”
The Avs have been outscored 32-19 during their 1-6-1 slump.
“We have to dwell on the positive and not think about the negative,” captain Adam Foote said. “We had a lot of chances. It was a battle to the end. Both teams played hard. We played well, especially in the third period when we were all over them.”
T.J. Galiardi got the Avalanche and the crowd back in the game at 7:32 of the third period when he converted Stewart’s pass to make it 2-1, whacking the puck behind Kiprusoff while he was stationed near the right post. But Kiprusoff made sure that's all they got.
“We played our game in the third period,” Galiardi said. “Kiprusoff made a couple of huge saves, one on Stewart and one on (Ryan) O’Reilly. We’ve got to play like that the whole game or else we’re not going to win. We’ve got to realize that.”
The Flames opened the scoring at 2:28 of the second period on a goal by Nigel Dawes, who teamed with David Moss on a 2-on-1 rush that coincided with a bad line change by the Avs. Moss skated down right wing and passed to Dawes on the opposite side. Dawes moved in on Anderson and whipped the puck by the goalie’s glove.