SUN Hockey Pool

Flames create space

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Shean Donovan's face said it all.

With stitches already under the eye, new gashes oozed blood from his right brow and the bridge of his nose.

It was a relentless blood-and-guts effort that gave the Calgary Flames a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche -- and the outright division lead -- last night at the Saddledome.

After dominating much of the opening 20 minutes, the Flames went into the intermission trailing 2-1 on the strength of two Joe Sakic goals in 25 seconds. But Calgary stormed back in the second with three unanswered goals in what may have been the team's best period of the season.

"After the first period, we weren't where we wanted to be but we came out in the second and played unbelievable," said Donovan, who scored a key goal in the third period to put the Flames up 5-3 and earn the golden hard-hat. "Guys like (Craig) MacDonald and (Byron) Ritchie, Si (Chris Simon) and Chuckie (Chuck Kobasew) were all flying around and generating a lot in the offensive zone. That's what we've got to do to be good in the playoffs. And this is playoffs."

The style of hockey the Flames have made their identity was on display all night. They were first to loose pucks, finished every check and often flattened their opponents, making the Avs work for every inch of ice they gained.

That hard work paid off, especially in the second period during which they outshot the Avs 12-3 -- a fact not lost on Avs defenceman Rob Blake.

"They dominated there in the second. I don't know if we were in their zone more than a couple of minutes. When that happens, it's bound to get in the back of your net sooner or later."

Simon started the rally with a controversial goal. Ritchie's pass banked in off his skate, leading to a brief review upstairs. MacDonald put the Flames ahead with a similar goal while parked in front. He smacked in Donovan's pass after the speedy winger rushed by Avs defenceman John-Michael Liles on the right side to set MacDonald up.

Then it was Daymond Langkow's turn to play finisher. He gave the Flames a 4-2 lead when he tapped the puck into an empty cage to cap Jarome Iginla's unfinished deke around Peter Budaj.

Cody McCormick scored 5:55 into the third period to give the Avalanche some life but Donovan's solo effort re-established the two-goal cushion midway through the final frame -- faking out Karlis Skrastins and then Budaj to make the score 5-3 Flames.

Donovan, as usual, gave credit to someone else on the play.

"Reggie (Robyn Regehr) made a great play to break it up in the neutral zone," said Donovan. "I got lucky, I turned around and they were on a change. Skrastins was kind of caught flat-footed."

Matthew Lombardi's shorthanded penalty shot goal through Budaj's legs put the nail in the coffin with 8:51 to play.

- - -

CALGARY FLAMES: 6

COLORADO AVALANCHE: 3


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