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Flames earn 'Cardiac Kids' reputation with late rallies

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley has affectionately dubbed his team the "Cardiac Kids."

He wouldn't have it any other way.

"The bottom line is the outcome at the end of the game," Hartley said. "That's where it counts the most. As long as we have a goal more at the final buzzer, that's why we're here and that's why our fans come to Scotiabank Saddledome every game to see it. We take the game as they come. We adjust. We make changes if we need to. One thing is for sure: We can always count on the guys to come in and give us a very proud effort."

Calgary leads the NHL with 66 third-period goals, and its 33 allowed are the fewest. The result for the Flames has been a League-leading nine wins when trailing after two periods.

It also has them in fourth place in the Pacific Division heading into action Wednesday, when they host the San Jose Sharks (10 p.m. ET; SN, SN1, CSN-CA). The Flames are tied in points with the third-place Vancouver Canucks, who hold two games in hand.

"When you have that attitude, and we have that no-quit attitude on our team, that's what we need," said Brandon Bollig, whose Flames most recently rallied from trailing 2-0 to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 here Saturday. "Down the [Stanley Cup Playoff] stretch, when we're trying to get into the postseason and put ourselves in a good spot to succeed, it's good to have that no-quit attitude.

"It's been doing pretty well for us this year, and obviously it's not ideal to enter the third down a goal or two, but if we are, we have that confidence that we're still in the game."

A half-dozen Flames will offer a half-dozen suggestions why Calgary has so much success with the opponent ahead. Confidence plays a big factor; commitment is another.

The combination has worked.

"I think it's a little of everything," rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau said. "We have hard practices and a ton of conditioning, and I think those third periods we still have a ton of juice in our tank and are still ready to go. I think that all the third-period comebacks we've had, it just gives us a little bit more confidence. I think most guys in between the second and third period are pretty excited to get out there and try to get a comeback if we're down a few goals."

Mix in experience, Gaudreau said.

"I think there's a ton of leaders in this locker room that step up and tell us we've been in this situation before," he said. "Whether it's a goal behind or three goals behind, we've been in these situations before this season. We can come back from a game, like we have in the beginning of the season."

Though alternate captain Kris Russell couldn't pinpoint the magic formula, he has seen the effort all season.

"We have 18 skaters and a goaltender working hard to try to get two points. It's huge," Russell said. "We've built off late leads before where we get down and come back. Our confidence is there we can do it. At the same time, we're confident in our play and our systems. When you play to your strengths, good things happen.

"If we can just keep doing that and keep getting better and keep working on the little things, I think we'll be good."

Calgary also has been very good locking down leads. After a 5-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, the Flames are 12-0-0 when ahead after two periods.

"I think we are a well-conditioned team," Bollig said. "We work hard, and that bodes well going into the third period. I think mentally, the game is so heavily relied on your mental part of the game, and going into the third knowing that you have the ability to come back or hold the lead is huge. It's been working great for us and we're not looking to change that."

Practice, Hartley admitted, has made perfect, and for some excitement.

"That starts with our DNA that conditioning is a big part of the game," he said. "You see our practices. Every time we step on the ice it's business. There's no gliding. If you step on the ice to fool around, stay in the room. That's the way it goes. We're a young team, so it's all about learning to do business the right way.

"I really believe that our speed is a definite factor in our success so far. We're a team that can close quick on pucks, can counterattack. Our transition game, our guys are executing really well. We get timely goals.

"Maybe we're the 'Cardiac Kids,' but at the same time it's not part of the plan."

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