Dogs Drop Flames in OT
Given the direction of the last two and half months, the Calgary Flames should probably embrace any silver lining, no matter how obscure.
With that in mind, last night's 4-3 overtime loss at the hands of playoff combatants, the Phoenix Coyotes, did have a shimmer of light mixed in with the dread of the final score.
First off, three goals from the Cowtown crew makes seven in two nights' work - a virtual avalanche of goals from a team that has been shut out three times in their last ten games.
Secondly, they did salvage a point, something that looked all but lost until Jarome Iginla found the back of the net with just 14 seconds left in the contest. A 3-2 regulation loss sits a lot less favourably on the books than a game dropped in overtime.
With the point the Flames managed to keep pace with the Vancouver Canucks, remaining six points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand.
Their provincial rivals, the Oilers, came up short in San Jose, dropping a 3-2 game to the Sharks, meaning the teams remain seven points apart with the Flames having four games in hand.
Now ... it's as simple as winning those games in hand. No problem. Yes I'll admit to some sarcasm.
Unlike the squad's last visit to Phoenix, the Flames will be able to look at themselves in the mirror when they leave the hotel this morning in Anaheim. Instead of dropping a three goal lead and then losing by three in the end, the Flames battled the Coyotes up and down the ice in a very close, physical affair.
After two periods the Flames and Coyotes had combined for 61 official body checks, thought the game was played in a city known to be lenient on hit counts (see Charlton's Hit Analysis). The game finished with a surreal total of 89 hits, with 45 credited to the visitors.
The two teams were tied after two periods with Daniel Briere and Daymond Langkow scoring for Phoenix while Scott Nichol and Craig Conroy responded for the Flames.
Sean Burke was outstanding through two periods, facing 17 Flame shots compared to the ten pucks Phoenix directed towards Roman Turek in the Calgary goal.
The third period showed a marked sag in play with both teams moving towards a "don't lose this one" game play as opposed to going for the jugular.
With just under three minutes left it appeared that Phoenix had done exactly that however, when Daniel Markov converted a Shane Doan pass to put the home side up a goal.
Then came the Iginla heroics.
With Roman Turek pulled and six skaters on the ice, Iginla managed his 34th goal of the season, setting up overtime.
In the extra frame the pint sized Daniel Briere scored his second of the game to continue Calgary's streak of sorrow in the desert state.
Iginla' s two points vaults him back into the NHL's scoring lead, with 63 points in 57 games.
Attendance was only 11,480 in downtown Phoenix for a club that dearly needs that new arena.
1. Daniel Briere - Two goals including the overtime winner
2. Jarome Iginla - Two points, including a dramatic goal that sent it to overtime.
3. Sean Burke - Solid in the first two periods, giving his team a chance to get it done in the third.
OF THE GAME
The Flames, leading by a goal in the second period, had to rely on a great save by Roman Turek to keep the team ahead. Finnish star Teppo Numminen stepped in from the left point and fired a screened blast, through traffic, that Turek just managed to get a pad on.
HIT OF THE GAME
The hit of the game goes to the statistician on the night. A total of 89 hits were dolled out, a number extremely high for a league proven inconsistent in recording the statistic. Quite likely a phantom check or two could be found on the game film, but this fellow went a long way in one night to equal transgressions of his counterparts throughout the season.
So ... how do two teams get to 89 hits in one game? For starters you get everyone in on the act. Only five skaters of the 40 taking part in the game went hitless on the night. These players were Dave Lowry, Jarome Iginla, Marc Savard, Daymond Langkow and Michal Handzus. Nine players had one hit apiece, eight players had two each, one player had three hits, six players had four hits, five players had five hits, and two players had a game leading total of six. Todd Simpson and Shane Doan were the hit champions on the night. ... The Flames, with Vancouver behind them, returned to their wizardry in the face off dot, thefting 57% of the draws on the night. The only Calgary center that struggled was Craig Conroy at 44%. Daniel Briere and Michal Handzus were routinely victimized on the night. ... Both teams finished at zero for three on their powerplays, leaving the contest to even strength play, something both teams should do more often given their success rates. ... The shots on goal were close at 24 to 21 for Phoenix, though the time in zone play favoured Phoenix by a larger margin. A total of 26:39 was spent in the Calgary zone compared to 21:56 in the proximity of Sean Burke. ... Jason Botterill was a -3 on the night to "lead" all Flames. Marc Savard was on the minus side at -1 once again.