SUN Hockey Pool

Flames all smoke, no fire

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

DENVER -- Sometimes, it's better to see a volcano erupt rather than just keep building up steam.

With no explosion of emotions, chippiness turned to a lack of discipline, and the Calgary Flames handed the momentum to the home team.

Desperate to stave off the surging Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Colorado Avalanche was happy to take advantage.

They scored a powerplay marker in the second period, and rode the wave into the third to take a 2-0 decision over the Flames at the Pepsi Center last night.

With the Oilers beating the Northwest Division leading Minnesota Wild, it was a missed opportunity for the Flames.

"They were more desperate," head coach Mike Keenan said of the Avs. "I was anticipating that we would play a desperate game because of the opportunity to move into first place. We still have a game in hand over Minnesota, but by the score in Edmonton during the game, we knew it was quite lopsided in favour of Edmonton.

"I thought our players would respond and play harder and more desperate with the opportunity that was presented to us."

There was no scoring in the opening 20 minutes, but the tension was palpable.

Starting some of the chippy play with an elbow aimed at Dion Phaneuf's nose, Ian Laperriere committed his first sin against the visitors.

Intent on giving the Flames defenceman a bent beak resembling the one on his own classic hockey mug, Laperriere took a roughing penalty for his run.

He barked at tough guy Eric Godard and later gave Jarome Iginla a shot as the two headed to their respective benches for a line change.

But Laperriere wasn't the first to seek out Iginla's number in passing. Peter Forsberg also made sure to give the Flames captain a shot to the noggin by the benches, and as the buzzer sounded to end the frame, with the Flames on the powerplay, you got the same feeling you would watching a smouldering volcano.

An eruption was bound to happen, and it would likely be violent. But it never came.

There was more chatter, but all smoke and no flame. No fists.

Instead, the Flames seemed to lose focus. Four straight Avalanche powerplays gave the likes of Forsberg, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth time to assert themselves, and you could sense danger for the Flames.

"I think that really hurt us tonight," said defenceman Robyn Regehr. "There were a few things, but the taking of penalties there in the second period, especially, just kind of gave them the momentum."

The Avs got on the scoreboard with a slightly messy, but effective, tic-tac-toe-to-toe-to-toe play on one of those man-advantages.

Andrew Brunette dropped the puck to Jordan Leopold, who found winger Wojtek Wolski on the right side. Wolski sent it into the slot, where it bounced backwards off Forsberg before Leopold, the former Flame, wristed it past Miikka Kiprusoff.

The Flames had chances, but were turned aside by Jose Theodore -- who earned his third shutout of the season -- and failed to get anything going on their own powerplays.

Milan Hejduk finished them off at 12:19 in the final frame, capping off a play the Flames believed would be called icing.

It was waved off, and Smyth fished the puck out of the corner to Stastny, who tapped it to a wide-open Hejduk.

Keenan pulled Kiprusoff -- who had been run over a few times in the feisty contest -- and discussed the play with the referees. The coach then saved the starter a little work with the team heading home for tonight's game against the Vancouver Canucks.


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