Yelle Ends Drought; Flames Win 

Flames End Second Coyote Curse of Season 

March 24th, 2003
Rick Charlton

If ever the Calgary Flames are to advance out of the wilderness of the NHL's Western Conference, team defence will have to be the underlying catalyst.

Flames last night played a near perfect defensive effort, establishing a team record in not allowing Phoenix a single shot in the first period while cruising to an eventual 2-0 victory in front of 16,685 appreciative fans at the Saddledome.

Phoenix has one shot through the first 37 minutes of the game.

Lowry Conroy Clark
Saprykin Drury Gelinas
Begin Yelle Donovan
Berube Betts Sloan
Gauthier Boughner
Leopold Regehr
Lydman Montador

That Calgary's offence missed the automatic 1-0 lead provided by injured goal-a-game Jarome Iginla was also evident, Phoenix's Zac Bierk providing a cool performance in the Coyote net, stopping 33 of 35 shots in keeping his team in a game it was clearly outplayed.

Roman Turek withstood a final minute flurry from the Coyotes to preserve the shutout, facing only 15 shots the entire evening.

Calgary is ranked 22nd defensively in the NHL and have rarely been out of the bottom third of the league in their mind numbing seven year sojourn away from the post-season.

While one could easily point to a number of flaws in Calgary's game these last seven pitiful seasons, it has usually been team defence which has consistently led to the team collectively clutching their own throats as the season winds down.

It was the third time in six games the Coyotes had been shut out and was the second zip recorded by Turek this month.

Calgary is now 16-16-7-1 under Darryl Sutter, virtually half a season now and perhaps an indication of what this lineup, good or bad, might be capable of.

But .500 still isn't good enough for a playoff spot.

It was the first time the Flames had beaten Phoenix on home ice since Oct. 30, 1997, the hero of that 4-2 win Theo Fleury with two goals.

Yes, it was THAT long ago.

Calgary had been 0-8-2 since then on Saddledome ice against the Coyotes.

But the only indication of a nail-biter in this one was the closeness of the score which otherwise belied a thoroughly dominating effort by the Flames.

Stephane Yelle in the second period with the eventual game winner, his first goal since January 14, and Martin Gelinas with a final minute empty net marker were the only scorers in this game.

The win drew the Flames to 26-34-12-4 on the season, tied with San Jose for 13th spot in the Western Conference, each with 68 points.

Calgary is within five points of ninth place.

The victory also tied Calgary with the lowest win total in franchise history - 26 - with six games still to go, leaving room for hope the record book for futility won't be cracked this season.

Steve Begin put Todd Simpson into the boards near the Phoenix bench with a late hit, leading to a melee that saw Simpson and Bob Boughner wrestling midway through the first period. As a bonus, Simpson was ejected for not having his sweater tied down in the fight with Boughner.

Calgary was zero for five on the powerplay while the Coyotes were zero for four.

Next up is Dallas at the Saddledome on Thursday night.

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Calgary Flames 2
Phoenix Coyotes 0

1 Stephane Yelle - His first goal since Jan 14 proved to be the game winner. 

2 Zac Bierk - This one would have been over long before the nail-biting final moments if not for the agile work of Bierk. 

3 Roman Turek - Earned his keep in the final minutes with the game on the line but nothing, literally, to do in the first period.

Paul Ranheim had just outrun the nagging checking of Yelle when confronted unexpectedly by a charging Begin, the ex-Flame bouncing a good five feet backwards and landing on his heinie in the second period.

Daymond Langkow flipped a backhand pass to Ladislav Nagy with the latter tipping a short range shot on Turek, the Calgary netminder sliding with the pass across the crease to make a pad save on the Phoenix two on one opportunity in the second period.

Brian Savage left the game early in the first . . . . . . Mike Commodore, a call-up from the minors, didn't play as Gauthier fought through a charley-horse injury. . . . . . Flames were a crushing 62% in the faceoff circel, led by Chris Drury at 66%. Chris Gratton was the only effective Phoenix centreman, logging a 58% success rate . . . . . Phoenix closed off its dressing room to the media after a particularly putrid effort. . . . . . Robyn Regehr led the Flames with 25:52 in ice time while Danny Markov registered 27:02 in ice time.
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