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Flames hold off Coyotes 2-1

by John Kreiser

Don't look now, but the Calgary Flames' playoff hopes are alive and well.

The Flames, dead and buried less than a week ago, moved within two points of eighth-place Colorado on Wednesday night by hanging on for a 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

Back-to-back wins over the Washington Capitals and Coyotes have given the Flames a chance to catch the Avs by winning their showdown in Denver on Friday night.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 29 shots and the Flames got goals by Rene Bourque and Ales Kotalik en route to their fifth consecutive win at home.

"Right now just being good isn't good enough; right now we need excellence," Flames coach Brent Sutter said. "We need to continue to be resilient."

The Coyotes, fourth in the West and assured of a playoff berth, got a third-period goal by Lee Stempniak and pressed hard for the equalizer in the final minutes but wound up with their second loss in as many nights. Phoenix has won just once in its last five games after a nine-game winning streak that briefly put the Coyotes on top of the Pacific Division. Still, with four games left, they're six points ahead of fifth-place Nashville.

"I thought our guys pushed hard tonight but we couldn't get the one we needed to tie it up," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "You knew that (the Flames) were going to play a very hard and determined game. We had some opportunities that just didn't go for us tonight."

The game was scoreless until 14:23 of the second period when Calgary connected on the power play. Mathieu Schneider was in the penalty box when Ian White fired from the left point. His shot hit Bourque's skate and went past Jason LaBarbera for the first power-play goal allowed by the Coyotes in six games.

Kotalik made it 2-0 at 3:46 of the third period when he snapped a shot inside the goal post on a nice setup pass from the sideboards by Mikael Backlund.

That goal turned out to be the winner when Stempniak took a pass from Wojtek Wolski and beat Kiprusoff with 6:52 left in regulation. It was Stempniak's 27th goal of the season, matching his career high -- and his 13th in 14 games since coming over from Toronto at the trade deadline.

Stempniak had a good chance seconds later only to be robbed by Kiprusoff, and most of the last several minutes were spent in the Flames' zone, with Calgary players doing everything they could to preserve the lead,

"We needed a sense of urgency, and we got that," Sutter said. "There was desperate hockey played.

Having a chance to pull even with Colorado is an amazing turnaround for the Flames, who were written off by many after losses to the Islanders and Bruins prior to their stunning 5-3 win at League-leading Washington on Sunday.

"Not much really has to be said. We know what the stakes are," Sutter said. "We knew going in ... if we did our job and got some help that we'd have an opportunity to go down there two points behind.

"It's a big difference from where we were last Saturday."

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report

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