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Flames find two points in 'must win' game

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

I felt we played many great games since the start of the year but more importantly in the last couple of weeks and tonight, I really believe that we played, I would say, our most complete game in a long time.Bob Hartley

NASHVILLE, TN -- Coach Bob Hartley called it a game the Calgary Flames “have to win”.

They did.

And as a result, Calgary finds themselves back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Goals from four different skaters and points from nine Flames helped keep Calgary’s playoff aspirations alive in a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Sunday.

“I felt we played many great games since the start of the year but more importantly in the last couple of weeks and tonight, I really believe that we played, I would say, our most complete game in a long time, not that the others were not good,” Hartley said.

“Tonight I’m so proud of our four lines, our six D. Jonas Hiller came up with some big saves at the right time. It’s a big team win. It feels great.”

The win leapfrogs the Flames ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and back into third in the Pacific Division with 89 points. Calgary sits two back of the Vancouver Canucks for second in the Pacific, too. Both the Kings and Canucks hold one game at hand over the Flames.

Calgary also pulls to within one of the Winnipeg Jets, who have the second wild card entry into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

“We know tonight is a huge win for us,” forward Lance Bouma said. “Everyone knows the standings. We just want to treat every game that’s left like a Game 7. If we do that we’re going to give ourselves a chance to get in.

“It’s been fun but obviously it’s not done yet. We still have a lot of work to do here. Our main goal is to make the playoffs. We’re just taking every game like it’s a Game 7 and everyone is really enjoying it.”

That comes as no surprise to Hartley.

“I know this group a long time ago,” Hartley said. “I’m not surprised with the performance. I’m not surprised with the effort. That’s who we are. You look at our leadership group; you look at our captain. He’s in the room and he’s helping out guys and the veterans are doing a great job with the kids. The young players are excited. You put all this together, we take them on the ice and we do our best.”

Trailing 1-0 just over six minutes into the game after Roman Josi opened the scoring, Bouma responded by sending his 15th of the season by Predators goaltender Carter Hutton at 9:13.

It sparked a run of four unanswered goals that also featured Kris Russell’s fourth of the year, Jiri Hudler’s 28th and Michael Ferland’s first career National Hockey League goal. Seth Jones pulled Nashville back within two midway through the third, but the Predators couldn’t beat goaltender Hiller again. Hiller finished with 27 saves.

Bouma bookended Calgary’s scoring by sending his second of the game into an empty net with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Flames have little time to celebrate, though. Calgary returns to action Monday against the Dallas Stars to complete the back-to-back series.

“Tomorrow’s another challenge,” Hartley said. “That’s the beauty. Win or lose, you have to wind up the big machine again and tomorrow…it’s also our situation. We can’t afford to take a night off. We’re challenging the players to win every game right now and tonight they responded with a great effort.

“Tomorrow we’re going to put our faith again into the playoffs and we will see what tomorrow will bring to us.”

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