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HISTORY LESSON FOR PLAYERS

Fantastic shootout win equals 40-year-old mark

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

The last and only previous time this franchise put together such a run it was located in another city. Heck, in another country.

Laverne and Shirley had the No. 1 Neilsen TV ratings slot, the Bee Gees were burning up the Billboard charts with Stayin' Alive. An average house price was $54,000, Roger Staubach led the Dallas Cowboys to the Super Bowl and Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey, was still lacin' 'em up with the WHA's New England Whalers in his second-last season

Nary a one of the current batch of Flames can remember anything about those days.

Because none of them had even been born yet.

"That,'' agreed shootout hero Kris Versteeg, "is a long time ago."

For those who Monday equalled a nearly 40-year-old record, seemingly back to the dawn of time.

"It's cool. I won't deny it,'' said skipper Mark Giordano, savouring a 4-3 shootout victory that propels this marvellous Calgary Flames' winning streak to a franchise-tying-high 10 games.

"Any time you can accomplish something that's lasted so long, you should take pride in it.

"I thought the atmosphere was great all night. Great game. Great team over there that never stops battling.

"I thought we went toe-to-toe, back-and-forth with them, and that's never easy.

"This whole streak our group has been resilient. Killing that one in OT and then getting the extra point it really does keep the momentum building."

Tying the consecutive wins standard established while the team was located in Atlanta, from Oct. 14 through Nov. 3, 1978, could be categorized as anything but straightforward, though.

These Flames gave up a late, disputed goal to send the game into overtime. They were forced to stave off an OT high-sticking minor to Giordano to reach the shootout.

From there, Versteeg bageled Marc Andre Fleury to score a wonderful, in-tight backhand and goaltender Brian Elliott turned back all three Pittsburgh Penguins' shooters - including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Being part of a record-tying night is always going to be special. Beating the reigning Stanley Cup champs to do it in a ring-a-ding-dong-dandy of a game, as the late, great Eddie Whalen would've said, makes the doing all the sweeter.

Video: Leslie breaks down huge shootout win over Penguins

"There's a reason they won last year,'' said Giordano. "They're big-time players make big-time plays. Crosby was really tough to night. He was battling so hard.

"To beat them, a team like that, to (share) the record, is all you could ask for."

That's like winning the ballgame by fanning Reggie Jackson on a 3-2 count and the bases jammed. Or cracking a winner that shaves the line to shade Federer in a fifth set tiebreak at Roland Garros.

"When you beat a team with the best two players in the world, it's doesn't matter who else is out of the lineup,'' said Versteeg. "I know (Connor) Sheary and that other guy on the line (Jake Guentzel) are good players but when you see how much Crosby elevates their games, it's pretty crazy."

The late adversity brought the best in the surging Flames.

"It's a tough call in overtime when it doesn't even really get him,'' said Elliott of the penalty call, Giordano on Nick Bonino. "When you see something like that, you just want to kill it off extra hard. The guys came through, kept everything to the outside and really allowed me to see pucks coming through.

"Gio's not the type of guy to take a penalty in overtime. Guys definitely tried to bring it back and kill it off.

"What a great job they did."

Video: Elliott says record-tying win just another two points

Calgary looked to have done enough in regulation when Johnny Gaudreau went off on one of those impetuous dashes of his, gliding past defenders like a snake shedding its skin, circling the net and scoring on a wraparound at 5:22 of the third period with Pens' Phil Kessel in the penalty box.

Not so fast.

Pittsburgh's 2-2 tying strike, at 16:29, was also hotly debated. Crosby was making a pest of himself, tied up with Giordano and Elliott, a shot by Sheary deflecting off the Penguins' superstar captain, downwards, and in.

Flames' coach Glen Gulutzan challenged for Crosby's proximity to his goalie, to no avail.

"Yeah,'' said Elliott wryly. "You're not getting that call.

"It's 87.

"I don't really understand goalie interference and I'm a goalie so it's really up in the air.

"Beating that team is a good measuring stick for us, knowing we can play 60-65 minutes and come away with a win. I think we should've won in regulation but we did a good job just battling through.

"And Steeger … what a goal."

Yes. What a goal.

"I was just kinda looking for a move,'' said Versteeg of his SO jewel. "You have a couple in your head, pick one and hope for the best.

"Seriously.

"I don't really know I did it. Honestly. I can't explain it.

"But 10 in a row is a nice achievement."

The chance to hold the Flames franchise best, 11 games outright - in either Calgary and Atlanta - pops up Wednesday against an Original Six opponent, the Boston Bruins.

In Gulutzan's eyes, Monday's record-equalling accomplishment was all well and good.

But it was the entertainment itself, it's tenacity, tension, that really held him spellbound.

"I think the game resonated,'' he said. "I thought that was a great hockey game. Hard on coaches' life expectancy a little bit.

"But two very good teams battling it out. At times there are games in this league that for a coach are fun to watch, fun to see."

For anyone, actually.

 

 

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