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THAT'S SICK!

Elliott turns in solid performance in win despite still battling flu

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Stopping for a post-game TV chat just outside the double doors leading into the inner sanctum, Brian Elliott looked roughly the same shade of green as the St. Patty's Day tie worn by Sportsnet game host Roger Millions.

"Wasn't easy,'' conceded the still-ailing netminder softly, after making it into the dressing room and stripping off his pads. "But the guys made it a lot easier on me. When you get up three goals it's pretty nice as a goaltender to sit back there knowing you have a little bit of a cushion.

"They're a good team over there. They haven't played the way they wanted to but we did a good job taking away their weapons."

Through a franchise-tying 10 consecutive wins, Elliott's puck-repelling had been the Flames' most effective weapon.

A wicked bout of the flu kept him out of Wednesday's streak-ending 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, and away from the rink entirely. But 48 hours and one practice later he was back to his old tricks, if not quite his old self, in collecting a personal 10th win in succession, this time over the Dallas Stars. 

And it wasn't nearly perfunctory as a 3-1 scoreline might indicate.

"Just conserve energy and when it comes time, spill it all out there,'' said Elliott, game-planning for being slightly under the weather. "That's what the mindset is.

"You're not in your normal routine of eating and drinking and getting all the nutrients you usually get. But I wanted to get back in there and it felt good to get another win and move on to a big game."

Video: Elliott on doing a good job of taking away offense

Playing hurt, playing sick, are a necessary part of the gig, naturally. But when the guy entrusted as the last line of defence is even the slightest bit wobbly …

"You have the flu like that, to sweat it out you're probably feeling a little dehydrated and not all that great,'' said skipper Mark Giordano. "But Moose looked rock-solid, again, all night.

"Big, timely stops. A big reason we went on that kind of a run was getting those types of saves."

The only shot of 25 to seep past Elliott came after defenceman T.J. Brodie whiffed on a pass attempt, the puck skittering directly to winger Brett Ritchie in the high slot.

Catching Elliott understandably surprised, Ritchie whipped a shot 5-hole to end the shutout bid with only 6:41 left to play out.

"I thought he was solid tonight,'' critiqued coach Glen Gulutzan. "We had a little gaffe at the end but he looked real good in there.

"Just when I watched him move, I wasn't nervous. Early on you're kinda seeing where he's at but once he had a few shots I knew that he was himself."

Video: Gulutzan on club's bounce-back victory

So, luckily enough, was Giordano. 

In a word, magnificent. Inspirational. Leading by example. Resolute defensively and he had a hand in all three Calgary goals:

A fine job keeping the puck inside the Dallas zone along the wall, keying Michael Backlund's pass to Michael Frolik for the game-opening strike 16 minutes in; slinging a pass off the half-boards for Matthew Tkachuk to re-direct on the second; and flinging a puck from the point that nicked Dallas D-man Dan Hamhuis en route past befuddled Kari Lehtonen in the Stars' goal for the third.

Throw in four blocks, a plus-3 rating and a team-high 21:13 of ice time and you've got someone playing as well as anyone at the position at the moment.

"He's driven right now,'' praised Gulutzan. "He is driven. He's been our engine all year back there and I can't say enough.

"He's a driven professional and it's a pleasure to have him."

Video: Captain talks his 'lucky' goal and the big 3M line

The Flames' recipe for success against the Stars included the same basic ingredients that had spiced up the streak: Generous helpings of Elliott, Giordano and star turns by the unfailingly consistent Backland-Frolik-Tkachuk line.

"We had some good shifts,'' said Giordano. "Backs's line has been doing it all year and they have some control, some possession. As a D-man it's pretty easy to jump in and make reads, when they're hemming it in like that."

And his goal, set up by Tkachuk - hockey-wise beyond his years - allowing the puck to skim a few feet back to his captain rather than latch onto it himself.

"It was lucky to be honest,'' acknowledged Giordano. "I just shot it at the net, it went through and I don't think their D-man saw it until it hit him. All year, Chuckie makes great plays at the bluelines and around the net. That's why he's able to play in this league at such a young age at a high level."

So the disappointment of Wednesday behind them, the Flames have set about attempting to piece together another streak.

"We still have to play really well to solidify a spot here,'' said Elliott, likely eager to head home and hit the hay. "The race is getting tighter and tighter.

"These two points are going to mean a helluva lot at the end of the year."

Echoed the captain:

"It was important tonight. After you go on a long streak every one that you give back takes away from your streak.

"So getting right back in the win column was huge."

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