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Sean Monahan and the Flames' top line hungry to make an impact in pivotal Game 3

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

DENVER, Co. - Motivation comes in many forms.

For Sean Monahan and the Flames, after what unfolded on Saturday in Game 2, they've got plenty of it.

With Nathan MacKinnon spoiling the party and sending this Western Conference First Round series to the Mile High City in a 1-1 draw, the Flames' top guns are clamoring for the chance at redemption.

MacKinnon put the Avs on his back that night.

Now Monahan wants nothing more than to do the same for the visiting Flames in a pivotal Game 3 tonight at the Pepsi Center.

Blow for blow.

Tit for tat.

"We've got to match that and be better," Monahan said following Monday's morning skate. "They're skilled, they're fast, and when they're out there making plays, we've got to have a response and shut that down."




All Monahan has heard through the first two games of the series is how MacKinnon and Company have dictated the game.  

It's time, he says, for the Flames' top guns to write their own narrative.

"We've got to be better at holding pucks in their end and grind them down, get shots from the top," Monahan said. "Their big line thrives off the rush and making plays in transition.

"For us, we need to make sure we're getting some good zone time and winning shifts, not playing into their hands with a one-and-done.

"That's our challenge. We can't be giving them any free ice, especially off the transition when they can build speed and catch us on our heels."

That was proved costly in the Saturday's overtime decision.

"Obviously they're a really skilled line and you saw how fast they were in transition on that goal," said Johnny Gaudreau. "We were in their zone, controlling the puck and making plays right at the end of the game, and they went back the other way and the puck was in our net in like five seconds.

"That's how quickly it can happen.

"If we manage the puck a bit better and, as Mony said, grind 'em down with zone time, that play probably doesn't happen."


Video: CGY Recap: Flames lose Game 2 in OT 


Monahan scored a big goal off a broken play in the back half of the third period the other night, but with Colorado's big unit earning much of the praise lately and vaulting the Avalanche to a 1-1 series tie, he feels he has more to give.

It's that everlasting competitive nature coming to the forefront.

'Anything you can do, I can do better.'

And after watching MacKinnon speed down and crack home the winner in his own barn, No. 23 - understandably - has a burr in his saddle.

"They're all proud guys," said assistant GM Craig Conroy, who rode shotgun with Jarome Iginla and faced those very same challenges in the magical '04 run and beyond. "They want it. Bad.

"Daryl (Sutter) always used to say to us, 'Whoever you line up against, you need to out-work and out-compete that guy.' So if Nathan MacKinnon is on the other side he's having a game like that, then Mony's got to stand up on our side and say, 'OK... now I'm gonna show you.'

"That's the attitude that we've always had.

"Believe in yourself. Initiate. Say to yourself, 'Look, (MacKinnon) had a great couple games. But now, I've got to up mine.'

"If we're going to win, we're going to need guys to step up like that."

Monahan, Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm combined for 11 of the Flames' 37 shots in Game 2.

But they didn't win, so that and Monahan's first goal of the post-season was of little consolation afterward.

They're not looking for a 'solid' effort.

They want to make a statement.

"My job is to produce," Monahan said. "It's that simple.

"I've got to do whatever I can to help the team and producing offensively a big one, so I'm looking forward to making an impact tonight."

With all three having career years across the board offensively in the regular campaign, Conroy senses a plot twist.

MacKinnon this and MacKinnon that?

No, no.

"Johnny this, and Mony that," Conroy said. "That's what we want them believing going into the game. Dictate. Own it. You set the pace.

"On the road, especially, if they had their top line out against ours, we'd say, 'Oh! OK. They actually want this matchup. Let's show them why they don't want it.' That goes back to the pride I was talking about. Jarome and I used to joke around about that, and we'd challenge ourselves to sort of make a point when we were given those tough assignments. Sometimes you need to. Sometimes you've got to push yourself, like I said, that little bit extra and take that pride to another level.

"The thing is, with guys with Johnny and Mony, we all know what they're capable of.

"And talent aside, their pride is their biggest strength."

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