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Hawks 3 Flames 1: Inside the Game

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames

GAME AT A GLANCE: Must win. It's becoming a common theme in the Western Conference.

Chicago Blackhawks' Tuomo Ruutu, left, of Finland, gets knocked to the ice by Calgary Flames' Jarome Iginla during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Calgary, Alberta, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008. Next to Iginla is Calgary's Daymond Langkow. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

For the Calgary Flames, Thursday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks could also be classified as should win. Afterall, the Hawks, a young rebuilding team, are languishing near the bottom of the conference and had lost five straight heading into the game at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Despite a strong flurry in the third period the Flames were unable to overcome a slow start and fell 3-1 to the hard-working Hawks.

A rather uneventful, scoreless first period turned into a peppy second period that featured three tallies, two from the Hawks and one from the Flames. Like their previous game against Phoenix, the Flames trailed heading into the third period and would have to stage a comeback to move into a tie with Minnesota atop the ever-shifting Northwest Division.

There would be no miracle comeback as Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, the same goalie that stymied the Flames in the Stanley Cup Final in 2004, stood tall as the Hawks scored into an empty net to claim their second victory in as many games at the 'Dome this season.

"He's tough to beat side to side. He plays deep in his net. I don't care what people are saying about him. He is a goalie that won a Stanley Cup and he proved it tonight," said forward Alex Tanguay of Khabibulin.

Post Game: Iginla and Aucoin| Coach Mike Keenan |

The Flames chance to tie the game came with 14:20 remaining in the third period when they received a power play. A minute into the penalty, it became a five-on-three and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had to make two nifty saves, perhaps the best one coming on Alex Tanguay who had his one-timer from the edge of the crease foiled when Khabibulin slid across the goal-line. Through the power play the Flames managed just two shots on the Hawks net but one was a dandy save on Tanguay. "I was just trying to get it up over the shoulder on him as he came across but he made the save. He played well," said Tanguay.

With under eight minutes remaining and the Flames trailing 2-1, Khabibulin became the star of the game stopping Flames snipers Owen Nolan, Kristian Huselius, Daymond Langkow (twice) and pulled a Jarome Iginla tip off the goal-line to preserve the win.

"I think we knew what to expect from them," said Adrian Aucoin, who scored the Flames lone goal, a blast through traffic that Khabibulin never saw. "They work hard. We can't wait until the third period. We've dodged some bullets this season doing that but we can't keep letting that happen."

Added Tanguay: "These are points we cannot afford to lose. We have to make it happen."

Beginning Saturday when the Flames host the Edmonton Oilers at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

THE TURNING POINT: Chicago forward Patrick Sharp snipes his 25th of the season with a high blast that beats Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff over the shoulder to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead at 15:07 of the second period. The Hawks kept some impressive sustained pressure on the Flames just prior to the goal as Kiprusoff was called on to make a couple of dandy saves before being beaten by Sharp.

THE ROSTER: The Flames went with the same line-up that won the game against Phoenix on Tuesday.The healthy scratches were F Wayne Primeau, D Rhett Warrener and F Eric Godard.

The Hawks were without Jonathan Toews, Kevyn Adams and Jason Williams, all of whom are are on the injured reserve list. Healthy scratches were Andre Zyuzin, Jack Skille and Ben Eager.

Calgary juggled the top two lines slightly for the game. Alex Tanguay and Craig Conroy moved up to the first line with Jarome Iginla while Daymond Langkow centered Kristian Huselius and Owen Nolan on the second unit.

WATCHING DION: The Flames signed Dion Phaneuf to a six-year, $39 million contract about 24 hours before the game so, enquiring minds certainly had an eye on the 22-year-old defenceman on Thursday. Phaneuf entered the game with nine goals and 26 assists, having scored twice in the win over Phoenix on Tuesday.

Here's the lowdown:
First Period: Phaneuf is paired with Anders Eriksson. He has 11 shifts, one shot on goal and registers one hit.
Second Period: Phaneuf has 12 shifts, blocks two shots but is minus 1 for the period
Third Period: Phaneuf has nine shifts and finishes the game with 28:35 in ice time. He averaged 53 seconds a shift and played 18:52 of even strength hockey.

Prior to the game Flames assistant coach Rob Cookson noted that Phaneuf is the type of defenceman that the team can build around.

"He's the type of player that the organization wants to build around," said Cookson. "He is a great young player. He can be a cornerstone."

SPECIAL TEAMS: Calgary was 0-4 on the power play, including a minute of 5 on 3. They generated nine shots on net with the man advantage but a hot Nikolai Khabibulin played the 'Bulin Wall' trick on the Flames. The Flames killed all five penalties, allowing the Hawks just six shot on net.

WORTH NOTING: The Flames will host the BMO NHL Alumni 3 on 3 on Feb. 17 at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The club will announce the rosters of the eight teams for the event on Friday at a news conference...Hawk rookie Jonathan Toews is back skating with the team and may play again early next week. He missed his 15th game with a knee injury on Thursday...Owen Nolan rattled an absolute rocket of a slapper off the post in the second period. The ping off the post rang out loud and clear in the 'Dome.It was the second post of the game as Chicago's Tuomo Ruutu hit a post in the first period. Early in the third period David Hale, looking for his first NHL goal, rang a shot of the Hawks post. Hale, a defensive defenceman, has played in 198 NHL games...When the dust settled the Flames had hit four posts.

THE FISTICUFFS: In the second period Hawks forward Craig Adams challenged Flames captain Jarome Iginla to a duke out in the neutral zone. Adams dropped the gloves but Iginla declined. Before Adams could pick up his dropped gloves, David Hale was there to stand up in Iginla's steed. Hale landed a strong right off the top of the fight and Adams had to leave the game with blood dripping down his face and a cut on his head, perhaps opening the wound when he hit the ice near the end of the tussle...In the first period Flames forward Mark Smith and Chicago's penalty-minute leader, Adam Burish, went toe-to-toe early in the game in the neutral zone. Smith gave up some height and weight to Burish but acquitted himself well in the scrap

GAME BY THE NUMBERS: Miikka Kiprusoff made his 52nd start of the season and his 31st in a row at home this season...The Flames have been scored on first 30 times this season and have an 11-14-5 record. When they score first, they are 16-6-3...The Flames were outshot 28-27 by the Hawks...Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow led the Flames with fur shots each...Hawk defenders Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker led the Hawks with four shots each...The hits were fairly even with Calgary registering 19 and the Hawks registering 17...The Hawks won 52 per cent of the face-offs.
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