Flames Pound On Hockey Town

Unbeaten In Six After Huge Road Trip 

March 16th, 2004

The mightiest tree always takes the longest to fall.

Calgary has rumbled through this magical season trumping the best in the league at various points, all of Colorado, Vancouver, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Ottawa and San Jose falling at some point to the upstart Flames.

All except Detroit, a crew of wily veterans currently ranked number one in the NHL, undefeated in nine, losers of only two in their last 20 and falling only five times in 37 home games entering last night.

In dropping their first three to the Wings this year, Calgary had followed a familiar script, spotting Detroit a lead and finding it impossible to come back against a team well versed in producing victories out of thin air.

Yet there were the Flames on Tuesday night, scoring on their only shot of period one, blitzing the Wings with two quick goals to start the second and rolling to a final 4-1 victory in front of 20,066 largely stupefied spectators at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, most of whom had left well before the final whistle.

The last stout tree in the forest crashing to earth in front of methodical Calgary, the Wings showing their age and looking slow against the swift skating Flames.

"We definitely wanted to frustrate them with a good forecheck and with good speed," said Steve Montador after game, an unlikely hero himself with the winning goal after sitting for 16 straight but drawing a straw into this one after a mysterious injury to Toni Lydman carried over from St. Louis.

"Its definitely a big confidence builder," said Montador of whipping the top seed in the Western Conference.

The win, while hardly a masterpiece, was a watershed of sorts, Calgary entering the last 18 game stretch, the most difficult part of its schedule, with 13 on the road but coming out the other side 7-5-1 on foreign ice and now with 19 road wins on the year, astonishingly, one more than they have on home ice.

Flames are now 37-26-7-3, good for 84 points, the win putting a virtual headlock on a playoff spot in the wild Western Conference with only nine games remaining. Calgary holds a six point edge on ninth place St. Louis and five points on eighth place LA pending action between those two teams later tonight.

Amazingly, the formerly lousy Flames were tied with fifth place Dallas pending results of its match with San Jose later in the evening.

Flames picked up five of six points in concluding their brief three game trip to the Eastern USA and are now unbeaten in six..

Calgary opened scoring at 6:49 of the first period, Jordan Leopold spying two Wings colliding at the Detroit blueline and gaining their feet in a lazy manner, the Flames defencemen driving around them and throwing the puck into the net off Stephane Yelle's skate.

It would be the only shot of the period for Calgary while the Wings manufactured 10.

Flames opened the second period scoring twice in only 24 seconds, Steve Montador starting the frenzy by lofting a lazy point shot through a small crowd and pinging both the crossbar and post before the puck dropped behind a surprised Manny Legace at 2:54. From there Chuck Kobasew plainly outworked Hall of Fame candidate Steve Yzerman along the boards and threw the puck to a streaking Matthew Lombardi for a deflection marker at 3:19.

Detroit came within two again when Kirk Maltby drew from the boards, finding a seam and advancing to the faceoff circle before throwing a screen shot through Kiprusoff's legs at 15:50.

But Craig Conroy and Ville Nieminen combined on a terrific two on one at 19:17, the former finding Conroy in front for a tap-in that essentially sealed the Wings fate.

"We capitalized for sure on our chances," analyzed Flames assistant coach Rob Cookson on Calgary Flames Pay Per View in the third period. "They've had some bad luck around their net."

Flames directed 18 shots at Legace.

Wings were zero for three on the powerplay while Calgary failed to score on its only powerplay opportunity.

Next up is Columbus at the Dome on Thursday night, Calgary with five of their remaining nine on home ice.





1) Miikka Kiprusoff - The Wings were only periodically dangerous in this one but the glacial nerves of Kiprusoff were equal to the challenge with 25 saves.

2) Jordan Leopold - Hardly noticed him except for that lunging, heady play to score the first goal off the skate of Yelle in the first period. But that's a characteristic of Leopold, his steady positional play in his own zone often overlooked.

3) Rhett Warrener - Nasty at times and brilliant at others, Warrener was a rock on the Calgary defence.

Timing is everything. With the Flames holding a tenuous 1-0 lead and allowing the Wings periodic quality chances, Kiprusoff went post to post to block a crisp one-timer from Steve Yzerman late in the first period.

In a light hitting affair, perhaps a reason the Wings went quietly into the night in this one, Chuck Kobasew found Jiri Fischer in the corner of the Detroit zone for a worthy face smash into the glass midway through the first period

Lydman drew out with the ubiquitous "upper body injury," replaced by the virtually forgotten Montador, sidelined for 15 straight as a healthy scratch. The report on Calgary Pay Per View was that Lydman had vision problems after a hit to the head in St. Louis, held out for precautionary reasons. . . . . It was Conroy's 600th career game. The veteran centre has 37 points in his last 37 games and is a plus 21 in the same time frame. . . . . . For one of the few times this season, the tandem of Rhett Warrener and Denis Gauthier led the Flames in ice time with 25:11 and 24:58 respectively. Jarome Iginla, usually with 21+ minutes, was held to 19:12 in this game as coach Sutter clearly held him back to give him a rest while rewarding some of the lesser lights with ice time. . . . . . .Stephane Yelle was 62% for the Flames in the faceoff circle, Calgary finishing a mediocre 43%. Jason Williams was 70% for Detroit.

Simon Conroy Iginla 
Neiminen Nilson Donovan 
Gelinas Yelle Clark 
Oliwa Lombardi Kobasew

Gauthier Warrener 
Ference Montador 
Regehr Leopold


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