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Calgary is putting the first three games behind them heading into Wednesday's pivotal match-up

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

They didn't exactly awake Tuesday morning to find themselves seated at the best table at the chicest Michelin 3 Star restaurant.

"Sure it's tough,'' reasoned right winger Kris Versteeg, Calgary Flames' ballcap fashionably askew. "But it's still there. We're still in the series. It's probably not the place we want to be but it's where we are.

"It's happened before.

"Why not us?"

The task ahead is clear, and daunting - to boldly go where only four other teams in NHL history have gone before:

On to the next playoff round after falling behind three games in a best-of-seven series.

Imagine drawing a 2-7 offsuit in a game of Texas Hold 'Em. Or having Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway open an envelope and announcing your name.

"They're a great team,'' acknowledged Versteeg, "but we're a great team, too.

"Everyone seems upbeat.

"We're ready for a win, I know that."

Immediately, great upsets of yesteryear flood the memory banks. Buster Douglas KOing Iron Mike Tyson and 42-1 odds in Tokyo, for instance. Broadway Joe ("I guarantee it") Namath and the Jets. The Miracle Mets. The Miracle on Ice.

Video: Flames staying positive ahead of Game 4

Not that Flames coach Glen Gulutzan is trotting out any touchstone comparables as a rah-rah rallying cry with the fly-or-die Game 4 approaching.

"We're not looking to say 'In 1972, these guys did this …,','' countered the Calgary Flames coach. "The reality is: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

"So we just want to focus on Game 4. 'Cause we don't want the task to be bigger than what it really is because what we're preparing for in the net 24 hours is one game, not four.

"We didn't draw on anything from the past or some motivational video of somebody doing something. We just want to really keep the focus on our game."

Elephant hides are pretty darn leathery. But how about dining etiquette for a brace of Ducks?

"That's tough,'' replied Gulutzan, smiling slightly. "I don't know. First thing I can think of is pull the feathers off."

Plucking Anaheim's Ducks will be no easy task. If Game 2's horrendously unlucky 3-2 loss at the Honda Center was difficult to stomach, gassing that 4-1 lead to drop Game 3 in OT at the 'Dome had to feel like a swift kick in the cojones.

"They've been better at the momentum swings and at the key moments they've had big-time goals,'' acknowledged Flames' skipper Mark Giordano. "Down 3-0 it's tough to come back in this league.

"But you go game-to-game and try to build momentum off that. All three games are one-goal games that could've gone either way.

"It was tough loss last night. You can't dwell on it. Today's a day where you have to refresh and regroup.

"You'e got to get over it as an individual and a team, collectively."

Gulutzan did his healing at the crack of dawn (not that he likely got much shut-eye anyway) with his 12-year-old boy.

"You get up at 6:00 with your son and you take him to football,'' the boss revealed. "You have a chat and he asks you what went wrong. You get your drive to the rink and you figure out how you're going to build yourself back up. You talk to your coaches and you bring positively back into it.

"When him and I always talk, he's like 'Dad, we're playing McKnight and we should beat them and they lost to this team and that team and we beat those two teams so we should beat them' so I'm like: 'Why even play the game? If you've already beat them?' That's why you play the game.

"We're not done yet. And we're gonna play Game 4. You gotta play the games."

The galling part from this situation is how well they have played during prolonged stretches throughout the series.

With nothing, as yet, to show for it.

"In anything we've done all year we've tried to deal with reality, not perception,'' Gulutzan said.

"The reality is it's a tough situation. But we've been in these situations before.

"'American Thanksgiving, you're not in playoff spot, you're not going to get in.' Well, we're in.

"So you go through all these scenarios.

"The reality of the situation is we're focused on Game 4. You can't win all four games in one night. So it really becomes a mental. How you box out some of the voices that might be in your head."

Video: Gulutzan talks about the attitude in dressing room

What Gulutzan asks of his plays Wednesday is this:

Relax. Do what comes naturally. Play, don't over-think. Cut loose and let 'er rip.

"Teams become really dangerous when they've got nothing lose,'' he cautioned.

"I talked to the guys about that today. The worst pain is now. You've got nothing to fear. So let's get over this. Now we're on our face, we're on our ante, we don't have an extra bet.

"So you've got nothing to lose. You gotta go all in."

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