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Emotions run high in Flames' thumping of Avs

Giordano and Iginla exchanged shoves in Calgary's 4-1 win over Colorado

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- The past collided with the present as the third period neared its midway mark Wednesday.

More of an intentional graze, really. An extra shot. A bit of afters. Some chirping.

"Emotions,'' downplayed Mark Giordano (representing the Calgary Flames' present), of his "What in tarnation … ?" run-in with Jarome Iginla (the past).

"I tell you guys all the time, that guy's one of the most competitive guys out there.

"Just words, really. Sometimes you get into fights with your buddies. Or disagreements.

"I'd bumped him a couple shifts earlier. He wasn't too happy about it and let me know. Nothing came out of it, really.

"Just one of those things."

Linesman Mark Wheeler stepped in as the old comrades-in-arms bickered to pour water on the fire before it began to spread.

So nothing tangible from the longtime Flames' captain and the man who succeeded him wearing the C.

And precious little fight in the Colorado Avalanche, well and truly paddled, 4-1 by a Flames aggregation beginning to hit all the right notes.

In case you were frozen in a cryogenic chamber over the last month, that's four wins out of five for the locals and 11 through their most recent 15 starts.

Video: Backlund, Gaudreau power Flames past Avs, 4-1

"Our message to (the team) after the first was that we have another gear,'' said Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan. "We had a good start but we have another gear and I thought through the second and third we showed that."

In this renaissance, Giordano has been an immense immense figure on the blueline, they're receiving scoring from everywhere and battening down their defensive hatches, while the power play - 3-for-7 Wednesday - and penalty kill - perfect in three tries - have risen from the dead like Bela Lugosi from his Dracula coffin after dark.

And once again, if we needed any reminding, Mikael Backlund showed why he's a legitimate Selke Trophy candidate this season.

The team's shutdown centreman - so very, very fine the whole way through - now has goals in five straight games and nine points over that stretch.

Why, he even shared the team scoring lead at 25 points briefly, for the equivalent of a period, notching his chart-topping 12th goal. That is, until Johnny Gaudreau, as slippery as a Mississippi sturgeon, stopped up behind the Avs' net, wriggled back in front and and tucked the puck in short side on a completely befuddled Calvin Pickard at 14:09 of the third to complete Calgary scoring and notch point No. 26.

Backlund's goal also marked his 200th career NHL point.

"It's a nice milestone to hit,'' he said afterwards. "It's a step up. Looking back, when I was drafted, you never knew if you'd get to play 400 games and score 200 points.

"I want to push to get better.

"I think I've just been growing during the season. I think me and the whole line have been playing really well right from the hop and we're just getting rewarded a little more as December started.

"When you get rewarded the extra confidence jumps in a little bit."

"This is the best I've seen (Backlund) in his career,'' chimed in Giordano. "That's saying a lot because he's been really good the last couple of years. A two-way centerman who doesn't get the acknowledgement all the time because he doesn't have the high-end numbers offensively.

"This year things are going in for him.

"He's feeling really good. Even in practice playing against him you can just tell. The puck's on a string for him."

Maybe the Flames should play the Avs and the game should be contested on soft, green felt instead of hard, white ice. Continuing their run of Willie Mosconi-calibre pool shots at Colorado's expense (three banked into the side pocket their last meeting, in Denver, a 6-3 Calgary victory), Kris Versteeg's centring pass/shot glanced off the left skate of defenceman Fedor Tyutin and past Pickard to stake the homesteaders to a lead.

That marked the first of Calgary's three power play strikes on the evening.

There was nothing in the least lucky about the ensuing three goals, though, Backlund slotting home easily after Giordano's shot cracked off Pickard's mask; Alex Chiasson converting a wonderful set-up from T. J. Brodie, sliding to the outside and slinging a pass back through the slot as he was being tripped to the ice, and Gaudreau's moment of infernal cheek.

Backing up the whole enterprise, Brian Elliott, now riding a personal five-game win streak. Arguably his finest of 17 saves arrived when ex-Flame Blake Comeau unleashed a slide-rule pass through to Carl Soderberg, who cut in hard off the left flank, only to be denied as Elliott shut the wickets.

Another post-game talking point, obviously, was the Iginla-Giordano tiff.

"I have a lot of respect for him,'' said Iginla of his former teammate. "He's a great competitor. It's just part of playing in the moment, going into the corners against each other on some different plays.

"We were a bit frustrated on our side and trying to fire things up a little bit. It's nothing personal. Just one of those heat-of-the-moment things.

Maybe it's for the best we didn't go."

Flames' boss Glen Gulutzan's sentiments precisely.

"I don't know Jarome but I know Gio and I'd bunker in with him any time,'' said the boss.

"He's a competitive guy. Over the years, coaching against Jarome, I know he is, too.

"I wouldn't want to see it, actually. I know some fans would but I wasn't looking forward to it."

What Gulutzan must be looking forward to is Vancouver on Friday night and back-to-backs against his old employers.

When you're group is going this well, clicking in this many phases, you just want to keep riding the wave.

"Our team game,'' adjudged Giordano, "was really good tonight but I thought our special teams really pushed us over the top.

"We generated a lot of chances. We had a lot of looks. We put three goals in the net. Any time you get three on the power play, well, you're not going to lose many.

"I thought we did a really good job."

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