Flames Dominate in Close Game

Donovan Wins it With Late Penalty Shot

January 27th, 2004

The dream season continues.

There is no accounting for Shean Donovan this year, a career plumber with stone hands whose best offensive output - only with the wind blowing to the outfield and the sun at his back - has been 13 goals, that with San Jose a distant nine seasons ago.

Yet here he is at game 49 with 16 goals, including his second on a penalty shot this year, deking Sean Burke out of his shorts at 17:52 of the third period as the Calgary Flames won an absolutely critical 2-1 decision last night in Phoenix.

"I was trying not to get too nervous," said Donovan on FAN960 of his thought processes heading into the free shot. "I was even more nervous after the goal. I didn't know what to do after I scored. I was so excited."

For Donovan, the pace is an arrow towards an incredible 27 goal season should he keep it up . . . . . and those willing to put down a farthing on the chances he won't are quietly disappearing back under their rocks.

This game was also a critical confidence builder for the on again/off again Flames, humiliated 6-2 in a quitting performance in front of 17,000 of their own fans only a few days ago, yet dominating this contest from start to finish, holding a 24-6 edge in shots after two periods and 34-12 as the final buzzer blew.

This is precisely the kind of limiting, smothering performance the Flames of December were displaying on a nightly basis yet only intermittently in January, a month where they are now 6-6-1.

The victory was vital to the Flames precarious playoff hopes in the zany Western Conference, the Flames vaulting from seventh, only two points removed from ninth, into a lofty tie for fifth spot with the idle St. Louis Blues.

Calgary is 25-17-4-3 on the season, good for 57 points with a hop to San Jose on the agenda tomorrow night followed by a five game homestand starting Friday against Chicago.

Flames are a single point up on Nashville and two points ahead of Dallas.

Both Phoenix starter Burke and Calgary's Roman Turek committed critical blunders in this game, both resulting in goals that had the score knotted at 1-1 heading into the final moments.

Daymond Langkow opened scoring for Phoenix at 12:08 of the first period with a tepid shot from the side boards that floated through a sieve-like Turek like hot coffee through a cheap suit.

It was Turek's third obvious soft goal in the last five games, an unacceptable rate of failure at the NHL level and particularly for a team that figures to be in a plethora of low scoring games as it bids for its first playoff spot in seven seasons.

Rather than deflating Calgary, however, the roster seemed even more energized, continuing to take the play to the wilting Coyotes at every opportunity, the latter saved only by the outstanding netminding of Burke.

It was up to Jarome Iginla to finally solve Burke at 18:58 of the second period, the Coyote goaltender wandering behind his net and misplaying the puck, allowing Iginla to nose to the net only a fraction of a second ahead of the panicking Burke.

The decisive penalty shot was called in spite of Donovan actually ringing the post as he was being pulled down.

The win might have yielded another blow to Calgary's beleaguered core of centre ice men, this time Dean McAmmond dropping like a stone after being whipped by an Iginla shot in the first period.

McAmmond managed to return late in the second period but then disappeared for the rest of the game, status unknown, as the Flames contemplated life down centre ice without Stephane Yelle and Blair Betts as well.

Flames were one for four on the power play while the Coyotes were zero for four.

Only 12,027 came out for this one in the new Glendale Arena in Phoenix.





1) Sean Burke - The Flames would have put Phoenix in its rear view mirror long before Donovan had to pull it out at the last minute if not for the outstanding work of Burke.

2) Shean Donovan - Scoring on the road is a big change for Donovan but what a timely marker against the hot Burke.

3) Chuck Kobasew - Nothing on the scoresheet but rocketing back and forth, hither and there, playing physical and creating a few offensive chances from the depths of the fourth line.

Matthew Lombardi drove hard at the Phoenix midway through the second, throwing a nifty cross-crease pass to a blitzing Chris Clark, the latter finding the swift Sean Burke already waiting for him and preserving the 1-0 Phoenix edge. Then he did much the same thing on Clark again late in the third period.

Krzysztof Oliwa was picking up the play at the sideboards when Phoenix firebrand Tyson Nash snuck up from behind and sent the 6'5" 235 lb Calgary forward hurtling butt over tea kettle into the Flames bench early in the second period. With his legs sticking straight in the air and bookmarked by incredulous teammates, one couldn't help but hope some lucky photographer was quick witted enough to get the shot of the year.

Iginla entered the game pointless in four games after returning from an ankle injury, some would say well before he was fully healed. Iginla was a minus four with only four shots since his return. . . . . . The last time Iginla was in Phoenix he scored four times, the best night of his career. . . . . Coyotes honured Brian Boucher before the game for his NHL record setting shutout string of 332:01 without yielding a goal. . . . . . . In a rare occurrence, a forward led the Flames in ice time, Iginla logging 21:54 while Jordan Leopold, the usual leader, was 21:05. Paul Mara, who almost scored save a great stop by Turek in the third period, led Phoenix at 23:29. . . . . Phoenix was 54% in the faceoff circle, led by Mike Sillinger at 70% and Langkow at 61%. Lombardi led the Flames at 71%. . . . . . Lynn Loyns and Steve Montador were healthy scratches with Josh Green and Andrew Ference drawing back into the lineup.

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