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ONE STEP CLOSER

Time for Flames to lockdown playoff berth with authority

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

The time has arrived for ruthlessness.

To wrap it up. Lock it down. Put it to bed.

Wednesday vs. the L.A Kings.

Win and they're in.

"The sooner we do it,'' declared centre Sean Monahan,
"the better."

The Flames find themselves on the precipice of returning to the NHL's springtime soirée after a one-year absence, a working man's 4-2 decisioning of the long done-and-dusted Colorado Avalanche cutting their magic win number to the minimum.

"I don't know the math but you want to control your own destiny, as we've talked about, and not scoreboard watch,'' said goaltender Brian Elliott.

"Right now it's just trying to get that X and we'll go from there. 

"But if we catch a couple teams that's fine, too."

Video: Brian Elliott on Flames sticking to their gameplan

First things first.

"We know how close we are,'' chipped in will-'o-the-wisp winger Johnny Gaudreau. "We've done a great job here in the last month and a half to put ourselves in the position we are today.

"We've got to be strong here the last week and a half, two weeks but we're definitely excited in this locker-room."

Against the Avs, Monahan put up a four-spot (1G, 3A) while Gaudreau and Ferland each contributed a goal and a helper.

"It's huge,'' said Monahan of Ferland's contribution. "He's physical, he moves his feet, he's creating space for himself and for us."

And the good times, from the continued upwards trajectory of the line since it was formed, can only get better.

"It looks,'' said Elliott, "like a real good mixture. Of everything.

"Johnny's got that breakaway speed. Mony's got the eyes to find him and Ferly with that lethal shot, if they find him it's probably in the back of the net."

With the 3M Line of Backlund-Frolik-Tkachuk in stellar form virtually the entire season, the amped-up play of the Gaudreau-Monahan combo, in tandem with Ferland, has created a balanced 1-2 punch.

"We're building chemistry every single game, which is nice,'' said Gaudreau, who pushed his career point total to 201 with the deuce. "Good time of the season to do it, too.

"I think we played well as a line tonight. Didn't spend too much time in the defensive zone. Their goalie (Calvin Pickard) played pretty well.

"We're getting better and better, learning how to play with each other. Ferly's a big body, he can get in on pucks in the offensive zone, he screens really, really well and he's got an unbelievable shot."

Monday's step, the second last on the ladder to the post-season, was certainly a potential banana peel game.

Twice in the third period, Colorado, losers of a whopping 51 games and guaranteed a 30th-place finish, crept to within a goal. It wasn't until Gaudreau slotted his 17th of the season into an empty net with 3.8 seconds left were the Flames able to kick back and relax.

"We knew it was going to be a little different,'' confessed Elliott. "They're playing loose, don't really care about the end result. They're just trying to get their goals and things like that.

"I've been in those situations. I've been on teams like that. You win games you probably shouldn't.

"We had to be sharp. I thought our guys did a great job covering over the top, playing our game.

"It's a tough game to get up for.

"We needed the two points more than they did and we got them."

Video: Glen Gulutzan said his team got the job done

The Avs, to put it charitably, are not the best travellers.

Since the New Year, they're now a deplorable 1-18-2 adrift of the Pepsi Center.

"I don't think it was our best game, our best 60 minutes as a team,'' reasoned Gaudreau. "But Moose played great back there. A solid performance from him.

"We capitalized on the powerplay early in the game so we were playing with a lead, which is nice, too."

Two years ago, it took the Flames until the bitter end to clinch their spot.

Wednesday, they find themselves standing on the precipice.

No time to waste. No reason to dilly-dally.

Against the Kings, they can end any doubt and punch their post-season ticket.

"I'm proud of the spot that these guys have put us in,'' said boss Glen Gulutzan. "A lot of hard work has gone into this.

"Now we need to finish it off.

"Good teams get themselves into the playoffs. They don't wait for help.

"We'll be ready on Wednesday."

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