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Inside the Game: Avs 2 Flames 0

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames



— Getting a break late in the season is pretty tough. The Calgary Flames learned that the hard way Monday in a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

The second goal the Avs scored, just past the midway point in the third, came off what appeared to be an icing call. Instead, there was no whistle and Milan Hejduk finished off a passing play and, essentially, ended the Flames hopes of a comeback. On the ice and on the bench the Flames argued, but to no avail as the ruling of an attempted pass negates icing.

Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla (12) hits Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jeff Finger (6) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Denver, Monday, March 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Both the Avs and Flames showed up to play with plenty of will and plenty of chutzpah in this Northwest Division match-up. The Avs represented the desperate team, one that had lost four straight while the Flames represented a team looking to stay on a roll, having won two straight, including a 2-1 win over the Avs last Thursday in Calgary.

The Avs scored first, with six seconds remaining on a power play in the second period when Jordan Leopold picked up a pass that had bounced off Peter Forsberg's leg in front and fired it past Miikka Kiprusoff, who had no chance on the lucky-bounce goal. Through the first two periods the scoring were very close, perhaps even dead-even.

So, the Flames went looking for that one chance to even the game in the third period. They had an early power play but generated little in the way of chances. The Avs, at even strength, pushed the same kind of defence the Flames pushed last Thursday in Calgary -- they made it tough in the neutral zone. And they relied on goalie Jose Theodore to smother rebounds, which he did quite well all evening. The Flames pushed hard late in the game and had a number of good chances but credit has to go to Theodore and the Avs defence, who blocked a lot of shots in the final minutes of play.

The Flames finished the game with a flurry of action using a penalty to go six-on-four. They had numerous chances but nothing got by Theodore. The last time the teams met the Flames won based on two power play goals. Monday, they had nothing to show for it.

"It's a close game. It's a one-goal game, really and you are going to have those. We didn't get (the power play) set up tonight and didn't get any consistency on it. At this time of year special teams make a difference."

"I think we played a little more on the outside. We could have got to the net more," said defenceman Anders Eriksson. "You can't win if you don't score goals."

Following the second goal the Flames removed Miikka Kiprusoff and replaced him with Curtis Joseph although it was no fault of Kiprusoff's on this night.

"It's a grind right now. That's why we have to be very good at the fundamentals of the game...You have to stick with the program,"added defenceman Robyn Regehr.

With the loss the Flames missed a chance to move into first in the Northwest Division as the Minnesota Wild maintained their one-point lead over the Flames despite losing in Edmonton.

THE BIG SAVE: The Flames Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay worked a nifty give-and-go inside the low slot in the Avs zone in the first period and Iginla got two good scoring chances, on the original shot and on the rebound but Jose Theodore was sharp on both offerings, kicking the shots out with nice pad saves. In the third period Miikka Kiprusoff made a great sve on Joe Sakic who was trying to finish off a two-on-one.
THE BIG HIT: Who else but Dion Phaneuf. During a first period Avs power play, Peter Forsberg came off the bench and headed to the corner to retrieve a loose puck. Watch out Foppa, here comes the train. Phaneuf crushes Forsberg into the end glass, knocking him to the ice. The two then exchanged some words and we are pretty sure they were not exchanging recipes. The hit riled a number of Avs, who began trying to intimidate Jarome Iginla, the Flames captain and top player. They didn't have much luck, other than to make sure Iginla was truly in the game.
THE TURNING POINT: At 12:19 the Avs take advantage of a non-icing call and Milan Hejduk puts in the Avs second goal of the game, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Flames. The official ruling was that the 'icing' was actually an attempted pass from inside the Avs zone. It did have a lot of zip on it and nobody, except Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf, touched the puck and he didn't touch it until after it had crossed the icing line. The Avs, however, played through and to the whistle and were rewarded with a goal and a very big win.

QUOTABLE: "I think both teams have an up intensity. If the referees can match that we are going to have a helluva third period." -- Flames GM Darryl Sutter, after 40 minutes in Denver on Monday, in an interview on Flames Pay-Per-View.

THE ROSTER: The Flames scratches were D Rhett Warrener (ankle), D David Hale, F Mark Smith, F David Moss and F Dustin Boyd.

HUSELIUS UPDATE: There's been plenty fo talk about the reduced ice time for Kristian Huselius in recent games. The talented Swede has been getting about a third of the ice time he received earlier in the season in the previous two games prior to Monday's game in Denver. Flames assistant coach Rich Preston, in a pre-game interview with The Fan 960, said the coaching staff has talked to Huselius and asked him to be better at even strength. "We need more consistent play five on five," said Preston. "He has to be more responsible with the puck as far as turning it over and he has to be better in the defensive zone. He has to be good, not great, five-on-five, and better away from the puck. You can't have a liability out there on any line at this time of year." Huselius played a little more than eight minutes but saw very little time in the third period.

WORTH NOTING: Calgary coach Mike Keenan was not happy about the way the Avs were allowed to crash the crease and crash his goaltender. "You expect the referees to protect the goaltenders but tonight they didn't. The league is going to have to decide what they want to do with that," said Keenan...Calgary captain Jarome Iginla and Avs forward Ian Laperriere had words at the end of the first period. The Avs forward shoved Iginla as he was on his way tot he bench, a counter to the Flames hitting stars like Peter Forsberg and Paul Stastny in the first period. Iginla had a shoving match with a couple of Avs players in the first, a sign that he was fired up for the game. In the second he received a double roughing minor when he took exception to the way Jeff Finger hit Dion Phaneuf after the whistle...Jose Theodore took a pretty good hit in the third period when John Michale Liles hit Stephane Yelle on the edge of the crease and the pair tumblrf into the Avs goalie...The Flames will host Vancouver tonight. The Canucks have not played since Friday and yet the Flames have to play in back-to-back games, the final one at home where the visitor has been waiting for 24 hours. Now that's a scheduling quirk...It is sweater of their backs night Tuesday at the 'Dome. Flames players will give the jerseys off their backs to lucky fans in the Pengrowth Saddledome...

BY THE NUMBERS: Iginla had five shots through two periods and didn't get one in the third...The Flames were 0-5 on the power play while the Avs were 1-4...The Avs outhit the Flames 24-19...The shots favoured the Avs 25-23...The Avs had lost four straight heading into the game...
UP NEXT: The Flames host Markus Naslund and the Vancouver Canucks March 25 at the 'Dome. The game is on Sportsnet West and The Fan 960 radio.
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