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Avs douse Flames' hopes with 4-1 win

by Aaron Vickers
CALGARY – The Colorado Avalanche's Stanley Cup Playoffs aspirations are still on life support. But the Avs may have flatlined the hopes of the Calgary Flames.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 38 shots Friday night as Colorado defeated Calgary 4-1 at Scotiabank Saddledome, keeping their hopes of playoff participation alive while all but dousing the Flames.
With the win, the 10th-place Avalanche have a sliver of hope -- they have 88 points but play just two more times, and not at all until next Thursday.
"We're so excited after this game because we win and get two points and still have a chance to play in the playoffs," Varlamov said. "We'll see what happens in the next five, six days. The five teams play each other so we just need to wait.
"It might be a little bit scary for us but we can't control those things for us. We just need to wait."
The Flames, who have lost seven of eight games down the stretch to fall to 11th place, remain at 85 points with the opportunity to earn six more before season's end. Calgary isn't eliminated just yet, but will require an extraordinary set of circumstances to have any hope at an extended season.
"You prepare all season long to give yourself a chance in the playoffs and to maybe not get there, it just feels like it was almost all for nothing and you just showed up and went about your business and went home," defenseman Chris Butler said. "It's not any fun watching other teams compete and get a chance to reach that ultimate goal of winning a Cup."
Calgary's undoing came minutes after the drop of the puck.
Lugging the puck up the ice, Mark Olver lost control of the puck shortly after gaining the Flames zone, but Calgary blueliner Jay Bouwmeester proceeded to corral the puck and inadvertently fire it past Miikka Kiprusoff and into his own net to give the Avalanche the lead just 3:21 after the opening faceoff.
"I went to put the puck in the corner and it didn't obviously," Bouwmeester said. "It's not a very good time for that to happen."
David Jones extended the lead midway through the period thanks to an incredible effort by defenseman Erik Johnson. Picking the puck up off the stick of a tripped Gabriel Landeskog at the blue line, Johnson circled the entire Flames zone with a delayed penalty coming before uncorking a wrister from the blue line that Jones was able to deflect behind Kiprusoff to make it 2-0.
With their playoff lives on the line, the Flames came out firing in the second period.
First, it was the duo of Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan forcing Varlamov to make back-to-back pad saves. Anton Babchuk's bomb on the power play was met with the same result.
But despite being outshot 9-1 in the first eight minutes of the period, it was Colorado who built on its lead with Milan Hejduk's one-timer from the point eluding Kiprusoff at 8:29 to give the visitors a 3-0 advantage.
With a three-goal edge, Varlamov slammed the door.
He made a pad save off David Moss after Tom Kostopoulos was able to force a turnover on a waved-off icing with 5:30 left in the period. Varlamov followed it up with a similar save off of Kostopoulos, who was left untouched in front of the net with 1:06 remaining.
Varlamov's pads continued to dazzle in the third. Just 2:10 into the period, he kicked out a shot from Mark Giordano, who had slid down from his point position into the slot. He was equally as good getting a toe on Blair Jones' cross-ice one-timer at 9:03.
Jarome Iginla spoiled Varlamov's shutout bid with just 38 seconds remaining, converting a pass from Curtis Glencross with the net empty and on the power play. Peter Mueller added an empty-netter for the Avs with 33 seconds remaining.
"We just wanted to win first and foremost but obviously you always want to get the shutout," said Johnson, who finished the game with two assists. When you give Iginla that much time and space he's going to make you pay. I think Varly will take the two points over anything."
The goal, Iginla's 32nd of the season and first in eight games, ended a dry spell of 139:50 for the Flames but was of little consolation.

"This is really tough," the Flames captain said. "Nobody was giving up. We were going to try to win our games and look for some breaks but we didn't do that. This obviously doesn't give us much of a chance at all. It's tough on us."
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