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.