SUN Hockey Pool

Royals flushed

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

It may not be a crowning achievement but it was worth a trip back to the top.

And a respite from the heat for a day or two.

With a city still concerned after the Calgary Flames' recent sub-par road trip, the hometown club got back on track and into first place in the Northwest Division by dropping Los Angeles 2-1 last night at the 'Dome.

"It was a big game for us and we put everything into it," said Calgary forward Tony Amonte. "And they're just going to get bigger and bigger for us.

"We want that home-ice advantage. We want the division."

Calgary is tied with Colorado for the divisional lead with 88 points but holds the edge having played one fewer game.

The Flames play host to the Avalanche tomorrow night in yet another example of how exciting the sprint to the playoffs has become.

"Every game's the biggest game of the year, it's not 'potentially,' " said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter.

"You want to make the playoffs, every game's the biggest game of the year.

"I said at the beginning of the year our job was to push Vancouver and Colorado and we're still doing it."

Amidst all the hand-wringing in the Stampede City, having seen the standings compress while they garnered only two victories in their just completed seven-game trek, the Flames were under the gun to set a tone for the rest of the way.

Mission completed.

Granted they were playing a Kings team beset by injuries and seemingly in complete disarray but the hosts were in control for the full 60 minutes and earned top marks for a victory that improves their record to 40-24-8.

"We knew it was an important game for us," said Calgary's Chris Simon, who helped set the tone with a one-sided scrap against Kings tough guy George Parros. "On the other side for them, too, it's a big game. They're trying to make the playoffs and we're trying to stay in first."

The Flames came out determined, with several big hits to prove they were ready, and that edge paid off before the first period was half done on a Jamie Lundmark tally.

Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera didn't control the puck off Amonte's sharp-angled shot and had no clue where it went.

Lundmark found the puck in the crease, couldn't put it in the net on the backhand but roofed the rebound for his second goal since coming to the Flames at the trade deadline.

Though outplaying the Kings, the Flames couldn't add to their lead until they finally got what proved to be the game-winner when Jarome Iginla scored a goal LaBarbera had no business surrendering.

While the Flames were shorthanded, late in the second period, Daymond Langkow gained possession of the puck in Los Angeles' territory and feathered a pass for Iginla to one-time.

Iginla's long slapper went through the legs of the suddenly startled netminder.

Craig Conroy's late tally pulled the visitors within one but the Kings never came close to potting the equalizer.

Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff finished the night with 25 saves. LaBarbera stopped 23 shots for Los Angeles, which fell to 38-30-5 and sits 10th in the West, three points out of a playoff spot.


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