SUN Hockey Pool

Sticks do the talking

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Four posts, four goals, two points and one hell of a way to bounce back.

On a day that started out so full of frustration that several players uncharacteristically refused interviews after the morning skate, the Flames ended it by taking a giant step towards proving their character is as strong as their defence.

In 40 short minutes the team went from ungratified to unstoppable; stonewalled to stone-cold brilliant.

OK, so the final 20 minutes saw the Flames revert to an age-old defensive shell that nearly cracked. But the end result has the Flames back on top of the NHL's toughest division, a mere 17 games above .500. In the midst of a stretch that has fans and the media harping on the team's woeful goal tally heading into the evening, the tension in the dressing room early yesterday suggested perhaps the players were also starting to wonder where their next goal would come from.

While that question wasn't answered in the first two minutes of last night's rematch with Colorado, the relentless forechecking and numerous scoring opportunities before the first shift change made it clear the Flames still have the skill to score with the best.

Kick-started by Stephane Yelle's post in the early going, the Flames exhibited a deft touch all night long, leading to more shots off the iron by Chuck Kobasew and Darren McCarty by period's end. Pushing hard to get out of their abysmal scoring slide, promises to go hard to the net were rewarded early on by Jarome Iginla's first of two goals on the night -- a front-door bang-in off a Jordan Leopold wrister.

Dismissing questions over whether the team has enough skill to fill the net with any regularity, the Flames took turns floating saucer passes tape to tape, giving-and-going and setting up the attack in a way they haven't for months.

The creativity exhibited by the Chris Simon-Matthew Lombardi-Kobasew line had the sell-out 'Dome crowd roaring early and often.

"I thought all the way around we were more creative," said Iginla, called out for the umpteenth time by Sutter before the game with the ol' "yer best guys have to be yer best guys" rant.

"We had a lot of three-on-twos and two-on-ones. It's a start -- we can be more dynamic than we have been."

And so, a day that started with long faces and no comments -- the only day of 2006 the Flames weren't first in the division -- ended with smiles and talk of renewed faith.

Funny how a 4-3 victory can do that.


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