Flames Battle to hard Fought Tie

Kiprusoff and Aebischer Solid in 1-1 Draw

December 13th, 2003
Rick Charlton

Amazingly, no luck was required.

The Calgary Flames, reduced to scattered spare parts via a hail of injuries, gave a ringing endorsement of Darryl Sutter's "system" Saturday night in grinding down the mighty Colorado Avalanche to a 1-1 deadlock in front of 16,809 at the Saddledome.

Green Yelle Iginla
Gelinas McAmmond Donovan
Saprykin Lombardi Clark
Oliwa Morgan Kobasew
Regehr Leopold
Gauthier Warrener
Montador Ference

Missing Craig Conroy, Steve Reinprecht and Blair Betts down centre ice, the battered Flames seemed overmatched on the lineup sheet but more than held their own and could have won this contest in overtime had Jarome Iginla's rocket off the inside of the Avs goalpost been a fraction of an inch nearer the mark.

The major difference in this Flames team versus disastrous campaigns of years past has been their overall attention to detail at all corners of the ice, Sutter's "pressure forecheck" seeming to have answers to all questions, riddles and situations including the recent absence of credible bodies.

In that sense, this was the ultimate test of Sutter's philosophy, one of the hottest, free-flowing teams in the league as the opponent yet the Flames limiting the Avs to only 24 shots, including six in overtime.

Through the first 33 minutes of this game, the Avs had generated only six shots, although several close calls in the first period.

Ex-Flame Derek Morris, who could scarcely hide his relief in leaving Calgary a year ago, has noticed the Flames are a different outfit than the one he left.

"Huge difference," said Morris after the game on FAN960. "The biggest difference is they're playing their system to a tee."

Led by the gutty performance of centre Stephane Yelle, a questionable starter given a leg injury in his previous start, as well as the workmanlike 23 save performance of Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames were able to secure a valuable point as they embark on a tough three game road trip starting next Tuesday in Philadelphia.

The tie leaves Calgary at 14-9-2-3 on the year, good for 33 points and sixth spot in the NHL's tough Western Conference.

Flames are only one point behind fifth place LA and are one point ahead of San Jose.

"I think guys are disappointed we didn't get the two points," said Robyn Regehr after the game, noting the Flames surrendered the late goal to give up a point on home ice.

Calgary entered the game 9-0-0-1 when leading after two periods.

Flames have surrendered one or fewer goals in six of their last seven starts and were ranked seventh overall defensively in the NHL prior to the game.

The low score belied the intense, physical aspect of this game as well as a wow finish as both clubs went end to end exchanging chances.

In the first period, Shean Donovan had a great chance, wheeling through Morris for a close-in chance while only the dexterity of Denis Gauthier in the crease saved the Flames from a Teemu Selanne goal.

"They outplayed us. We played bad." analyzed a blunt Morris. "They took the play to us and our goalie (David Aebischer) played great."

Colorado's Aebischer matched Kiiprusoff save for save for much of this game and added a few more for good measure, the former beaten on a rainbow seeing-eye point shot from Robyn Regehr early in the second and the latter by a pinching Avs defenceman John Michael Liles later in the third period.

It was Iginla though who brought the crowd out of its seats in overtime, taking a Matthew Lombardi feed for a one-timer, ringing the inside of the post behind Aebischer in the best chance of the game.

Flames were zero for four on the power play while Colorado was unsuccessful in two opportunities.

Flames directed 33 shots at the Colorado net.






1 Stephane Yelle - A steadying veteran force at centre ice all night in spite of being a physical target for the Avs. 

2 Rob Blake - A Norris Trophy season on display yet again, physical, generating chances, etc, etc. 

3 Rhett Warrener - Some dazzling defensive work with the game on the line as well as making life hell for Teemu Selanne.

In the opening minutes, Teemu Selanne was staring at a gaping, open net after drawing Miikku Kiprusoff out, but then had to contend with Denis Gauthier, the Flames defender saving the Flames from an early deficit.

Stephane Yelle, already hobbling, had a bullseye on his back all night, the Av's no doubt eyeing him as one of the few natural centres in the Flames lineup and Adam Foote blasting him from behind midway through the second period.

For third party heresay, Mike Rogers of FAN960 related a media conversation today where Darryl Sutter expressed support for the position of Oiler GM Kevin Lowe in the Mike Comrie dispute. Should a certain low scoring $7 million winger be worried next summer? . . . . . Blair Betts says he's looking at another two weeks for his injured shoulder, now skating and handling the puck . . . . . Surprisingly, it was the rookies, Matthew Lombardi and Jason Morgan, who led the Flames in the faceoff circle at 70% and 66% respectively. Ex-Flame farmhand Travis Brigley was 70% for the Avalanche. . . . Jordan Leopold played 27:12, leading the Flames and, like Aebischer at the other end, could easily have been a star. Adam Foote was on the ice for 27:58 in ice time, exactly seven seconds more than battery-mate Blake.

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