Flames Burn Road Warrior Devils

Team Wins Second Straight At Home In th Third

March 5th, 2003
Rick Charlton

Lowry Conroy Iginla
Niedermayer Yelle Clark
Gelinas Drury Saprykin
Begin Nichol Sloan
Gauthier Ference
Leopold Regehr
Lydman Boughner

If the Calgary Flames are ever to bounce out of their seven-year-and-counting-funk, they will need more than Jarome Iginla and crossed fingers.

Last night the Flames managed to pop five goals behind the NHL's third best defensive team, the New Jersey Devils, winning 5-4 in overtime largely thanks to a second straight dominating effort from Chris Drury, Martin Gelinas and Oleg Saprykin, collecting six points among them, the kind of offensive explosion from secondary sources that has been largely missing this entire season.

For a game that started as a grinding chess-match only a purist might have appreciated, ended with a wild bang, eight goals in the final two periods, the Flames recovering from a late 4-3 deficit on Oleg Saprykin's deflection to force overtime.

From there Martin Gelinas came down the left side, patiently waited for Jarome Iginla to crowd the crease and then banked a shot off the leg of Devils defenceman Scott Stevens and behind a floundering Corey Schwab for the victory at 1:54 of the extra frame.

The contest was reminiscent of Calgary's efforts in the opening month of this campaign, Iginla only a minor factor, goaltender Roman Turek less than stellar but the Flames finding a way to pop four or five and pull some points out of the hat.

Observers of this team through the entire season might be forgiven if they fail to remember that Calgary, entering November, was in the top third of the league in goal-scoring, finding ways offensively to get themselves out of trouble and building a 5-3-3-2 record after 13 games, largely thanks to the efforts of a credible second line.

But the wheels fell off shortly thereafter, Calgary scoring only three times in its next seven games, shutout in four of them and the dive for the bottom of the standings had begun.

2003 Draft Watch

If the draft was held today ...

Pick Team Player*
1 Carolina M.-A. Fleury
2 Atlanta Milan Michalek
3 Buffalo Nikolai Zherdev
4 Columbus Nathan Horton
5 Calgary Braydon Coburn
*ranking: Red Line 2/26/03

Even with nine goals scored in its last two games, Calgary is the third-worst offensive team in the NHL and not coincidentally, in roughly the same place in the standings as well.

For the first time in weeks, the Flames actually have someone in their rear-view mirror in the standings, the victory advancing Calgary past idle Columbus in the Western Conference Standings with a 21-31-10-4 record.

Jersey jumped into a 2-0 lead on goals by Scott Stevens late in the first period, a play that left starter Roman Turek with a cut on his nose after he was hammered to the ice, and Brian Rafalski late in the second.

But Calgary roared back with two quick ones only moments later, first Martin Gelinas finding the net behind Schwab then a sensational marker by Rob Niedermayer, the big Calgary winger emerging from a blueline scrum to rocket in front of Schwab and lift the puck high into the net.

Calgary took a 3-2 lead at 7:33 of the third when Drury crossed the Jersey blueline and demonstrated his quick hands, catching Schwab off guard with a bullet of a wrist shot. But Patrik Elias and then Jamie Langenbrunner, the latter a soft goal of the kind that has killed the Flames this year, beat Turek at 8:22 and 15:47 respectively, the latter score seemingly the final nail in the coffin for the offensively challenged Flames.

Calgary outshot Jersey 32-26 on the night and neither team was able to score with the man advantage, the Flames zero for five and the Devils zero for four.

Next up for the Flames is Chicago on Friday, the Hawks losers of eight straight and not doing any favours for the legions of Oiler haters out there.

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Calgary Flames 5
New Jersey Devils 4

1 Chris Drury - a goal, an assist and plus three on the night, dangerous virtually every shift.

2 Oleg Saprykin - Flames will live with a dumb retaliatory penalty at the end of the second period if they get more efforts like this, the clutch game tying goal at 18:35 of the second, an assist earlier and plus three on the night.

3 Brian Rafalski - Smallish late bloomer logs a steady game, a goal and an assist and a plus two.

Crafty Drury emerged from the corner in the first period and appeared to have the top corner, long side labeled but Schwab darted out his glove to pull the shot in, preserving a scoreless tie.

In a sequence separated only by seconds, Devils giant Turner Stevenson ran over Flames kamikaze Steve Begin in the second period then banked left to come around for a second pass. This time, however, Begin was ready and the much larger Stevenson was sent spinning to the ice.

Gary Bettman was in the building, meeting before the game with suite holders and other people important to the Flames cause. The commissioner was no doubt gratified to see 16,106 in the building of a 15th place team in the middle of the week late in the season. The great failure of Bettman's tenure has been the continued absence of the gigantic USA national television deal that would support the economic system currently in place. One gets the sense the commissioner and his minions in recent years have come to the conclusion that, although 98% of games are now televised, the big TV deal will never happen, hence a move to re-trench to a different economic system and to embrace once more the roots of hockey, the places where its culturally ingrained, that being Canada and the northern USA. Love him or hate him, Bettman may be the key person standing in the way of the Calgary's of the world being eliminated from the NHL map forever. You either believe that or the Flames are done like dinner anyway. And soon. . . . . . . . Here's a key thing that will change with the Flames next season. There was Calgary's fourth line, 5'10" Steve Begin, 5'10" Blake Sloan and 5'7" Scott Nichol buzzing against 6'3" Turner Stevenson , 6'4" Jim McKenzie and 6'1" Pascal Rheume. Although the local boys were game for the fight, there should be no clearer picture of the lack of size that has hurt Calgary this year . . . . . . Flames were 59% successful on the faceoff dot, led by the 75% of Drury. John Madden was 56% for Jersey. . . . . . . . Unusual to see Iginla leadin the Flames in ice time at 22:40. Scott Niedermayer logged 27:14 for Jersey.


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