Five Takeaways from the Calgary-Colorado game New Year's Eve, 2010 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Calgary Flames, had a big monkey on their back. Well, maybe more like a gorilla.
They had not won three consecutive games since late October and, with their playoff hopes in the balance, winning three, four, five, six game in a row is paramount.
On New Year's Eve, against a high-scoring team, the Flames took another big step, downing the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 to win their third game in row for the first time since the first month of the season.
They did so by taking advantage of some Colorado defensive gaffes, getting some timely saves from Miikka Kiprusoff and some goals from the fourth line.
Tom Kostopoulos, Tim Jackman and Jarome Iginla scored for the Flames, all in the second period.
The Avs did not go quietly, though. They scored twice in the third period and had some pressure with the extra attacker.
Olli Jokinen was a takeaway from the 5-2 win over Buffalo earlier this week but he was one of the more noticeable players on the ice from the get-go. On his first shift he got into a yipping match with Avs defenceman Ryan O'Byrne. He then crashed the net on a first period play and had some yapping for Avs goalie Craig Anderson. In the second he was back, deep in the Flames zone, to pick off a shot and feed it up the ice quickly to Alex Tanguay who dropped a pass to Jarome Iginla (just a little offside by the way) who then fired home the Flames second goal of the game. The play started with Jokinen being strong defensively. The assist put him to the 20-point mark. Most of the points have come lately so perhaps he has turned a corner and found his identity on this team.
Miikka Kiprusoff had another excellent game. The Avs can score in bunches when they start coming at you. With the Flames leading 2-0 in the second, the Avs started coming. They were taking some risks, being creative, pressing for the goal to get the momentum back. Kiprusoff was there to make several big saves, including a big blocker save with bodies in front of him as he slid across the goalmouth to rob Ryan O'Reilly. Daniel Winnick, with a great effort, and Tomas Fleichmann scored on Kiprusoff in the third period. However, he made a game-save on Avs leading scorer Matt Duchene to preserve the Flames lead.
You had to appreciate the effort of the Flames fourth line. From the start of the game they were aggressive, they hit everything in site. They got pucks to the net. The kept the Avs scrambling in their own zone. In the second period they turned themselves into a first line -- first when Kostopoulos scored on a rebound and then when Tim Jackman scored on a breakaway.
After the first goal the Flames were energized. They produced five or six good shifts in a row -- including one on which Iginla scored -- and kept the Avs on their heels. That's not easy to do with a speedy team like Colorado.
"Everyone is working hard. Every guy is giving their all. We've got three in a row and we have to keep going," said Kostopoulos, the game's second star.
The Flames spent the three days prior to this game practicing for about an hour a day. And there was plenty of special teams work done on each day. The Flames penalty-kill was strong killing both penalties against the No. 6th ranked power play in the league.
The power play had one shining shift, on their second power play of the game. The puck movement was excellent, the umbrella concept worked and the power play generated chances. Still, it went 0-4 on the night, including two chances in the final period where they could have put the game out of reach.
Some New Year's stats: The Flames are now winners of six straight on New Year's Eve. The last loss, ironically, was in 2003 to the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 2-1.
Overall they are now 12-7-3 in games on New Year's Eve. They are 12-5-3 at the 'Dome. They have not won on the road in two tries -- losing in Detroit in 1986 and Minnesota in 1985. The Flames biggest winning margin on New Year's was a 7-2 thrashing of Montreal in 1990.