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Flames start second quarter with big win

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

(Click on picture for full view)  

 We'll go back to the first period when Miikka Kiprusoff was being swarmed during an early Avs power play. He made several stops in a row, sliding all over his crease area, to keep the Avs off the board.
- 5 shots and one goal for Calgary's Jarome Iginla
- The Flames outhit the Avs 24-13. Flames D Cory Sarich led the hit parade with six.
- The Flames were handed the first three penalties of the game and, consequently, were outshot 9-3 by the Avs
- Eric Godard and Cody McCormick dropped the gloved in the first period. Call it a draw
- 22, the total shots on goal for both teams midway through the third period
 Marek Svatos scored at 1:54 of the second period. But the Flames responded, scoring on their next rush when Owen Nolan bagged a snapper past Jose Theodore eight seconds later. The goal lifted the Flames back into the game in more ways than one.
The Flames were without Marcus Nilson because of a concussion. Mark Smith drew into his spot...Avs defenceman Karl Skrastins returned to the line-up after missing 12 games with a shoulder injury...Anders Eriksson hit Ryan Smyth into the boards - maybe from behind -- sending the Avs forward t the infirmary for facial repairs...The three stars, in order, were Owen Nolan, Robyn Regehr and Miikka Kiprusoff...
The Flames host Chicago Thursday, 7 p.m. at the 'Dome

The Calgary Flames officially reached the quarter pole Tuesday at the Pengrowth Saddledome under a microscope. To a player they were disappointed with their performance, admitting they were nowhere near their expectations.

The 8-9-3 record heading into a game against Northwest Division rival Colorado, spoke to the issue.

Colorado Avalanche's Cody McCormick, right, loses his helmet as he fights with Calgary Flames' Eric Godard during first period NHL hockey action  (The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

The coach, too, admitted that the team was underachieving.

"I feel that the team has underachieved. Our expectations going into the season were much higher than the results we're getting at this point," said Mike Keenan, who was downright grumpy with his charges at a practice on Monday. "I think it's a fair comment that, overall, we're not in the position that we expected to be. I don't think I am being overcritical to make that comment."

What Keenan had seen through the first 20 games was inconsistent play.

"I would gloss it over by saying that there is inconsistency in many areas. It fluctuates from one area to another on given nights. That is a concern."

In other words, one night the offence might be clicking and there are defensive errors. On a night when the defence is solid, the offence sputters.

Keenan pointed to a game in Denver against the Avs in which the Flames coughed up a four-goal lead and lost 5-4 in a shootout as a game that summed up the inconsistent play. It was rather fitting that the second quarter of the season began with a game against the Avs, affording the Flames a chance to redeem themselves against a team they had lost to three times this season and seven times in a row dating back to last season.

The challenge, as the Flames closed out an eight-game stretch against Northwest Division teams, was to bring all facets of the game together, night-after-night, as the second quarter of the season began. It was about how the Flames would respond to the underachieving label.

The result was a much-needed 4-1 win.

After taking all three penalties in the first period and staving off the Colorado power play for a full six minutes, the Flames headed to the dressing room tied 0-0. They had generated just three shots but, considering the skill on the Avs man advantage, they had dodged a bullet with hard work and great goaltending, something they carried into the second period.

"Our penalty-killing was strong, something there has not been enough of this season," said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

They could have deflated when the Avs scored at 1:54 on a lovely two-on-one that Marek Svatos finished off. But before the announcer could get through telling us that Colorado had scored, the Flames had roared back, Owen Nolan had scored, and the momentum was all Calgary.

"It's not how you come out of the gate, It is how you finish the race," said Nolan, a veteran of numerous races who added an empty-net tally to seal the deal at 4-1.

Jarome Iginla, with his 12th of the season, staked the Flames to a 2-1 lead at 9:02 of the second, further boosting the confidence of the home squad.

Still there was plenty of time left in the game and, against the Avs, there can be no letdown -- they can be explosive on offence. One area the Flames wanted to improve on was having the forwards be more active in the defensive zone, coming back hard and helping out. Witness Eric Nystrom darting back into the Flames zone late in the secnd period to knock a cross-slot pass out of harm's way and prevent a scoring chance.

The Flames metttle was tested with 8:03 left in the third period when Craig Conroy was tagged for interference and sent to the box.

Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic, right, watches for a rebound as Calgary Flames' goalie Miikka Kiprusoff  follows the puck during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary,

During the penalty kill Nystrom dropped down to block a shot, Robyn Regehr worked his butt off on a loose puck behind the net. Dion Phaneuf gobbled up a loose puck and fired it the length of the ice. And goalie Miikka Kiprusoff slid out to stop a Joe Sakic point shot. In a nutshell, the penalty-kill lived up to expectations, the Flames held onto a one-goal lead and, eventually gained a big two points.

Then the Flames took to the offence as Kristian Huselius found David Moss on a neat give-and-go and Moss tipped home his first of the season to make it 3-1 before Nolan added the empty-net tally.

"We didn't give up power play goals," said Nystrom. "We have been talking about it every day. We were coming back hard, blocking shots and clearing pucks."

This was no offensive gem for the Flames. They finished with just 15 shots on net. Defensively, however, the Flames shut down the Avs. "We got back to being better and doing the right things in our own end," said Regehr.

So, the Flames start the second quarter with a win and have three W's in the last four games. Something must be going in the right direction.

"We still have to be more ready at the start of games," said Regehr. "There are improvements to be made but at least we showed resiliency tonight."









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