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Bourque leads Flames past Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- The fifth time turned out to be the lucky charm on St. Patrick's Day for the Calgary Flames.

Not that the Flames needed much good fortune to defeat the Colorado Avalanche for the first time in five meetings this season, skating to a much-needed 3-2 win Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
The Flames outworked the Avalanche -- who were playing their second game in as many nights -- for most of the game and pulled within one point of the Detroit Red Wings for the eighth and final playoff position in the Western Conference with 12 regular-season games remaining.
Rene Bourque scored two goals -- matching the Flames' total in its two previous games -- and goalie Vesa Toskala stopped 32 shots in his second start for Calgary since is March 3 acquisition from the Anaheim Ducks.
"Every game is big right now," Toskala said. "We're fighting for a playoff spot right now so every game is like a playoff game. It was a good effort tonight and a huge win."
The Avalanche won the four previous meetings by 3-2 scores and rallied from 2-0 deficits in three of them, but Bourque wasn't about to let it happen again after the Flames built a 2-0 first-period lead.
Bourque gave the Flames some breathing room at 6:55 of the second period when he put in the rebound of Mark Giordano's point shot on a power play for a 3-0 lead, ending the team's 0-for-14 drought with the man advantage over parts of five games.
"It was huge," said Bourque, whose 22 goals are a career high. "Our power play hasn't been clicking for us lately. To get one there made a big difference in the game. I kind of crept to the side of the net and when (Giordano) shot it, he saw me there and just tried to get it low to the far side and it was a tap-in.
"They had our number this year and we wanted to respond. Every game is going to be do or die for us from here on out. We're going to have to have a pretty good record the rest of the way."
Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff played well enough in the four previous games against the Avalanche but didn't have a win to show for it, so Flames coach Brent Sutter figured he might as well give Toskala the opportunity Wednesday.
"I don’t know if I was surprised," said Toskala, who owns a 5-3-1 career record against Colorado. "I just go day by day. When I play, I just want to give us a chance to win. We talked about how our playoffs were starting today because every game is huge now. I wouldn't say (it was a) must win, but it was a big win."
The Avalanche pressured Toskala in the final minute after pulling goalie Craig Anderson for a sixth attacker, sliced the deficit to 3-2 on Milan Hejduk's goal with 32.5 seconds left and came close to sending the game to overtime.
"We were buzzing at the end," said Hejduk, who reached the 20-goal mark for the 10th consecutive season. "I passed in front of the net and (Chris) Stewart was there. We had a bad start, a bad first period. We had to play catch-up hockey and we came up short."
The Avalanche scored their first goal at 13:44 of the second period during a scramble in front after Matt Hendricks fired a shot from the left circle. Chris Durno was in front and knocked the loose puck into the net.
"I just crashed the net," Durno said. "I am not sure if it hit my stick or my skate or what."
The Flames scored on two of their first three shots against Anderson for their 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Bourque and Eric Nystrom that came 4:21 apart.
Bourque scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 3:12 after Stewart misfired on a pass for Kyle Quincey, who fell down.
Nystrom was in the slot when he converted a pass from Jamal Mayers, who came from behind the net after he and Curtis Glencross outworked the Avalanche along the boards.
"We got off to a good start," Bourque said. "We got a lucky break on that shorthanded goal on the breakaway I had. We got a nice bounce."
The loss ended the Avalanche's winning streak at three games and left them three points behind the first-place Vancouver Canucks in the Northwest Division.
Colorado lost defenseman Ryan Wilson to a head injury late in the first period. Wilson, who was hurt in a fight with Mayers, missed the two previous games because of a concussion.
Glencross took a hit early in the third period, limped off the ice and was on crutches after the game.

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