SUN Hockey Pool

Hosts return to rude welcoming

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

The Calgary Flames are back.

Passing the biggest test of the year so far as they fight their way out of a shockingly poor start, the Flames became the first team this year to deal the Anaheim Ducks a regulation time defeat.

Playing a team with all the confidence and tools to set an NHL record with 16-straight games without a loss, the Flames opened strong enough to build a 2-0 lead upon which they sat for Miikka Kiprusoff to preserve.

Just like old times.

However, despite sending the league's top team home with a 3-0 loss, Jim Playfair refused to acknowledge his club has turned the corner.

"Nope," said Playfair, mimicking the type of tough love Darryl Sutter blanketed his troops with.

"If you didn't see the game, we played well enough to win but didn't dominate for two periods and that's the next step. I think we're going through the process of establishing our identity and I think that's the focal point of it. There are so many areas we recognize we can be better at."

The way Playfair saw it, the Flames showed up for one period and hung one for the other two.

The way the fans saw it, the Flames are back to being the type of physical menaces and defensive stalwarts that made it so hard to play at the 'Dome.

Whether it was Rhett Warrener rocking Travis Moen, or Dion Phaneuf coming within inches of separating Ryan Getzlaf from his head, the Flames returned to playing the type of punishing hockey they've long preached. And if they couldn't do it between whistles they did it afterwards, with Brandon Prust fighting Shawn Thornton and Phaneuf scrapping 6-ft. 4-in., 245-lb. Dustin Penner after the big lug drove himself into Kiprusoff.

Even Tony Amonte, who went AWOL last season, is back to the form that saw him score 40-plus goals as a mulleted youngster and was clearly the team's top skater for the second straight game.

In many ways his newfound confidence, finish and success mirrors that of his team's as the Flames have strung together three straight wins.

"For the team and personally when you lose your confidence you're looking for the great shot," said Amonte, scoring his third in two outings.

"You get one goal and feel better about yourself and have more jump and it carries over. We've got the confidence going in the right direction and we can finish off a great week tomorrow night."

With a late date in Vancouver tonight, the tests keep coming for the Flames. who have 30 division games left. The Flames had a time to enjoy last night's win.

"It's tough to have pride when you're not scoring goals and losing," said Andrew Ference. "When guys start putting in solid efforts and start winning you start slapping one another on the back. It's a big win beating one of the top teams in the league and it's an accomplishment especially from where we're coming from."


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