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Flames want to win in Anaheim to finally snap streak

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames /

There's only one thing on the minds of the Flames when they board their charter flight late Monday morning for a three-game California swing.

And that's cancelling a personally exasperating episode of Duck Dynasty that's played on a sadistic loop for more than 13 years now.

"It has,'' conceded winger Troy Brouwer, only recently acquainted with the ongoing Anaheim agony, "been a tough building for us in the past.

"But this may be a match-up in the playoffs so we want to go in and have a good game.

"It gets you ready. Making the playoffs is one thing. But we want to do something in the playoffs. That starts now. 

"We want to try and get home-ice advantage. These next three games are big towards that. Whether we need a bit of help from other teams is to be seen.

"When you have these games against teams you may play in the playoffs there's always a little extra. You want to set the tone for when the playoffs do start."

A late goal from right-winger Logan Shaw, 3:06 from overtime, propelled the Ducks to a 4-3 victory over the Flames Sunday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The message: Right now is no time for fretting or fussing or naval-gazing.

Not so much as a furtive peek in the rear-view mirror. 

Either as recently as Sunday night. Or stretching back to Jan. 19th, 2004, the last time the Flames took two points out of Walt Disney's theme-park playground.

Eyes front. Forward march.

"We have to come in there and play better,'' stressed boss Glen Gulutzan. "We play like we did tonight we're not going to end that thing, either.

"We're going to be better.

"We're not thinking about a streak or anything. We're just thinking 'We're going to be better.'"

This was a game for adults. No short pants allowed. A bone-on-bone, hammer-and-tong that provided the Flames - as if they needed reminding - what the Ducks are all about. 

"They don't give up opportunities against,'' sighed two-goal Flame Kris Versteeg. "That's why they are where they are, year after year.

"There are some aspects we have to learn from but all in all, we were right there 'til the end."

That was small solace to the man pulling the strings.

"They were better than us,'' said Gulutzan. "We dipped a little bit in my mind, for sure. They looked like the hungrier team. More to play for, it seemed.

"I don't know why that is.

"Mentally we didn't have our edge in the first two. We needed to be at a different level. We weren't at our level tonight and that's not acceptable."

Two powerplay goals from Versteeg, his 14th and 15th, and a Michael Frolik tip off a Mark Giordano shot at 5:42 of the third seemed to have sent the game into OT.

But the ever-aggravating Ryan Kesler flung the puck at the net, but Elliott could only bunt it back out front. Shaw swooped in to score only his third goal of the campaign.

"I can't give up that rebound there at the end,'' said a tight-lipped Elliott afterwards.

"We didn't play it as a playoff game. They did. It's disappointing.

"Just really frustrating."

Elliott certainly had nothing to chastise himself for. A string of gape-including stops were the reason the game still hung in the balance with under four minutes left in regulation time.

"We were getting out chanced 14-4 after two periods,'' said Gulutzan. "We didn't have a 5-on-5 chance.

"I thought he was the reason we even had a chance to get a point in the third period. So I thought he was good."

The loss left playoff-clinched Calgary seated in the first Western Conference wildcard slot, a point ahead of Nashville and three in arrears of San Jose, currently occupying the third berth out of the Pacific Division. 

A turnabout-is-only-fair play result Tuesday at the Honda Center, their only Amityville Horror house for so long now, is crucial in perhaps moving up the post-season pecking order but moreso in getting a King Kong-sized monkey off their backs and regaining some lost momentum.

"We've got to be a little better with puck management,'' said Brouwer, looking ahead. "We gave them a lot off the rush - their second and fourth goals.

"You've (got to) put pucks in good areas. You know when it's time to make a rush and when it's time to get the puck in.

"You've got to grind it. They're big, skilled players are good at getting in on pucks and wearing you down.

"Our big guys gotta (get) in and grind, our skill guys gotta get in and do their thing."


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