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Flames look to build confidence on road trip

by Aaron Vickers

The tone is decidedly different heading into their first extended road trip of the season, but the Calgary Flames aren't out of trouble yet.

The Flames (2-5-0), who ended a four-game losing streak and won for the first time in five games at home in a 3-2 win in overtime on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, start a three-game road trip against the New York Rangers (5-2-2) on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports, SN, SN1, MSG).

"Obviously, we're frustrated that we started the season off not playing too well," forward Sean Monahan said. "I think we came together as a group and we knew we had to be better. So I think when frustration kicks in, you find a way to use that as momentum.

"It gives us confidence. We all believe in each other in this room and when you fight back in games like that and come out with a win, it gives you that much more confidence and you want to win more."

It's a much different tune to the one the Flames were singing prior to the win.

Calgary was 29th in the NHL standings prior to taking two points from Detroit, and was last in the Pacific Division and Western Conference. Its minus-13 goal differential was also 29th in the League.

Goaltender Karri Ramo was waived and assigned to Stockton of the American Hockey League as part of an attempted initial jump-start, and a team entering the season brimming with confidence seemed morose while mired in the slide.

"When you lose your first four at home and you get spanked every game, it's pretty tough to believe," Flames coach Bob Hartley said Wednesday. "At the same time, we're pros. Last year we lost eight in a row and we still got back up. There are many stories around us that lead us to believe that, hey, let's roll up our sleeves and do it. And this group can do it.

"I have no problem believing in them. Right now, we're quitting a little bit too early. It's not acceptable. We're better than this and we're stronger than this. Now we have to re-cultivate this."

Hartley and the Flames had a third-period comeback on Friday in much of the same style that saw Calgary convert 10 third period deficits into victories last season.

"I thought that was us," said captain Mark Giordano, whose second goal 3:12 into overtime gave Calgary the win against the Detroit. "I thought that was our game. We were relentless on the forecheck. We created a lot. We held the puck more in the neutral zone, which was a big key [Friday]. We didn't just throw it up and give it away.

"Good feeling going on the road. That's what we needed."

But even with the win, the Flames have four points and sit sixth in the Pacific. Their goal differential remains the worst in the Western Conference, too. Still, small steps are important for a team that has struggled early with heightened expectations following a surprise 97-point season in 2014-15 and qualified for their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009.

"It was great to see some smiles," Hartley said. "At that point we were on a mission. "We have a great team spirit. I don't know how many times I said it last year, but we're fortunate to coach these guys. They're together. They're very united. It was a great feel.

"I'm real proud of the boys and I'm very happy for the guys because they deserve it. We got spanked a few times but we never quit. We had two good days of practice. [Friday] we responded with a very good effort."

A more familiar effort, too.

"That was Calgary Flames hockey right there," forward Joe Colborne said. "That's what we were so proud of and what we spent a year-and-a-half, two years building towards. That's our team right there. … That would have been a long and quiet plane ride if we don't get this one."

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