Offence comes alive

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Consider the statement made.

The message wasn't delivered as emphatically as it could have been but it was heard nonetheless.

Facing a test of their mettle after surrendering the division lead the day before, the Calgary Flames re-established their claim of being one of the NHL's elite clubs last night.

The Flames scored a thrilling 4-3 victory over the visiting Colorado Avalanche by using the same old formula -- a strong first period, clutch goaltending and tenacious forechecking.

"Our guys did a really good job of trying to win the first period," Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said. "The (Stephane) Yelle line did a really good job of that. They didn't get much for it -- one goal -- but they really sustained it from the start."

With the win, Calgary regained top spot in the Northwest Division, moving one point ahead of the Avalanche and holding three games in hand.

Vancouver sits five points back.

Flames players knew their lack of scoring had become the talk of the town -- especially following a 3-0 loss in Colorado Sunday -- so they sought to prove they could be a dominant team.

And coming out of the gates, they were.

On the opening shift, Yelle drilled a shot off the post -- the first of four posts the Flames would hit on the night.

The next line worked until Daymond Langkow fired a pair of golden chances just over the net. The third line created a scoring chance for Chris Simon, whose shot went wide. The early-game blitz continued when fourth-liner Shean Donovan's effort from the slot failed to beat besieged Avs netminder Peter Budaj.

Just when it appeared Calgary's efforts might go for naught, Jarome Iginla gave the sellout gathering of 19,289 reason to erupt.

Leading the rush, defenceman Jordan Leopold worked down the left wing and sent the puck towards the net. Budaj stopped the sharp-angled shot but Iginla was parked at the doorstep and easily put the rebound into the far side of the net.

It snapped the Flames' goal drought at 123 minutes 53 seconds.

"It felt good on the ice and it felt good on the bench, watching all four lines going out there," Iginla said.

"As big as the game was, we were pretty relaxed. We all knew the importance of it but the feeling in the room was excited for the game but not tense and it showed on the ice."

Less than 90 seconds after Iginla's marker, Bryan Marchment made it 2-0 with a lucky tally.

Marchment's offering, not exactly a boomer, had Tony Amonte poised to deflect it but his stick was lifted by Avs defenceman Patrice Brisebois -- yet the puck somehow slid past the startled netminder.

And when Iginla notched his 30th of the season by one-timing a Kristian Huselius cross-ice feed while on a five-on-three powerplay early in the third period, it appeared the result was no longer in doubt.

There's a reason, however, why the Avs are perennial powers.

Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk scored early third-period goals to draw the visitors within one and were pushing hard for the equalizer, only to be denied time and time again by Miikka Kiprusoff.

That's when Kobasew provided the much-needed insurance, which turned into the game-winner. With Simon holding the puck on the end boards, Kobasew raced to the slot and drove home the bang-bang play.

Said Sutter: "Twenty games left, it's about scoring big goals and the biggest goal of the night was Chuck's."

Alex Tanguay's goal with 85 seconds remaining made it a one-goal difference.

If that's not enough,the Flames were shorthanded with 1:13 left on the clock but Yelle was sprung on a partial break and was hauled down to negate the advantage.


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