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SMITH STANDS TALL IN LOSS

Flames netminder puts in stellar performance but Flames fall in overtime to Avs

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

DENVER - When offered the chance to come out and rest up during the third period of Monday's Game 3 loss, Mike Smith bristled at the very notion. 

He wanted to stay. 

To fight. 

To be there, shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammates, no matter the score, right to the end. 

On Wednesday, in an important game, we saw why.

Smith, who felt a responsibility to help get his team back on track, had the game of his life. 

However, it wasn't quite enough.

Mikko Rantanen sent the game to overtime with only 2:39 to play the third period, then potted the winner at 10:23 of the extra period to give the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 win, and put the Flames in a 3-1 series deficit heading back to Calgary for Game 5 on Friday.

 

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Mikael Backlund had a fabulous chance to end it early in OT as he found himself alone at the side of the net with the goalie at his mercy, but Avs 'tender Philipp Grubauer made a circus save with the left pad to keep the game going.

"It's tough," Backlund said. "I took a bad penalty and then I had a chance to redeem myself, and instead, they score in front of me again. It's going to be a long night - a tough night.

"We have nothing to lose now. I don't think a lot of people think we can do it, but we know we can. We've faced a lot of adversity this year and if there's any group that I believe in and know they can do it, it's this group right here.

Smith finished with 49 saves, while Elias Lindholm and Derek Ryan supplied the offence for the Flames.

 

Video: CGY Recap: Lindholm and Ryan tally in 3-2 OT loss

 

"This one definitely hurts," Smith said. "We played better. It was a more competitive game and we played more up to our speed. We had our chances, but... we had a two-goal lead with 10 minutes left and we couldn't find a way to push it along and win it regulation. 

"That's tough."

Smith has now made 99 saves over the past two games, but has come out of the wrong end of the final score in each. 

"It's nothing personal," he said. "It's about the team winning. I'm just one little cog. 

"It's nice to have personal success, obviously, but when you don't get the results it doesn't matter. You need to do more."

Game 5 goes on Friday back at the Scotiabank Saddledome (8 p.m. TV: CBC/Sportsnet; Radio: Sportsnet 960 THE FAN). 

The Flames opened the scoring with a powerplay goal at 3:25 of the second. Lindholm started the play by winning the strong-side draw, took the setup pass from Mark Giordano and fired a shot off the right circle, squeezing it under the arm of Grubauer after it changed direction off a body in front.  

The Avs pushed back and nearly got the tying tally when Gabriel Landeskog was left alone at the doorstep, but Smith - somehow - got the glove on it with a magnificent goal-line effort.

That was his 19th save of the game, six minutes into the second. 

 

Video: CGY@COL, Gm4: Smith reaches for incredible glove save

 

The Flames took over for a good chunk of the period, but the homeside found life late in the stanza, forcing Smith to be at his very best to keep his team ahead. 

First, a massive pad save off a Landeskog blast. Then, a big-time blocker stop off MacKinnon, followed closely by a Carl Soderberg one-time blast, and a breakaway try by Rantanen. 

In all, the Avalanche piled 12 shots in the final 5:35 of the period, but Smith - forever the showman - was putting on the concert of a lifetime. 

The Flames opened up a 2-0 lead at 6:58 of the third when Ryan plunged home a loose puck at the side of the net, but the Avs finally solved Smith and made it a one-goal game again less than three minutes later. 

J.T. Compher was the beneficiary of a rebound in the high slot, slinging a shot top-shelf just 1:12 after the Ryan marker. 

"In the third, we were good up until their goal," Giordano said. "They got some real momentum, obviously, and they scored a late one to tie it. 

"We just have to regroup here, get back home and know that we lost two in overtime. The only one that has really been out of hand was the last one. Tonight we just couldn't stop the momentum after they got their first one and we've got to do a better job than that."

The Flames got back to their game early and did a significantly better job in transition, using their speed and preventing the counter-attack with extended periods of zone time. 

Coming off a disappointing Game 3 loss - they couldn't have asked for much better.

Shots did favour the Avalanche 15-13 after one, but neither side had much of an edge. 

However, Calgary's immaculate puck-stopper was once again in fine form, picking up right where he left off after scoring post-season career-high 50 saves on Monday. 

There was a menacing moment late in the first, though, when Colin Wilson drove the net on a partial 2-on-1, lost his edge at the lip of the blue paint crashed heavily into Smith, causing all sorts of concern on the Flames bench. Athletic therapist Kent Kobelka swiftly tended to the fallen netminder, worried Smith - who was favouring his right leg after the skate-first impact - may have been cut. Thankfully, that wasn't the case and the veteran stayed in the game, no worse for wear. 

He's a fighter. 

Has been all series.  

And they'll need him again on Friday as the Flames begin a stretch of three must-win games. 
 

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