SUN Hockey Pool

Blast bests Avs, Budaj

The Flames' Eric Nystrom and the Avs' Ian Laperriere duke it out in Calgary on Tuesday. (Sun...

The Flames' Eric Nystrom and the Avs' Ian Laperriere duke it out in Calgary on Tuesday. (Sun Media/Al Charest)

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Had a skills-competition target been in place, Adrian Aucoin would have shattered it.

Not only with accuracy but also with velocity.

Aucoin, one of the few NHLers who still uses a wood stick yet still can blast a puck at triple-digit speed, showed that form when the Calgary Flames needed it most in last night's 4-1 victory.

His top-shelf rocket with seven minutes remaining finally broke open what was a one-sided clash and helped stake the maligned Flames to a win over the Colorado Avalanche.

The way Avs netminder Peter Budaj was playing between the pipes in a 47-save performance, the Flames needed a perfect shot to break open what was a frighteningly close affair before the Saddledome's sellout crowd of 19,289.

Aucoin's blast was just that -- or close to it.

"I don't want to say perfect," the defenceman said. "I put it exactly where I wanted to, so I'm happy with that."

With four days between games, the Flames had plenty of time to digest their 6-1 thrashing in San Jose late last week. They used the time to ramp up their effort against a Colorado team that arrived here riding a three-game winning streak, thanks in big part to Budaj's play.

Budaj was spectacular while the hosts fired one shot after another, keeping the game even until Aucoin's blast, an unassisted goal he created by gloving down a weak Milan Hejduk clearing attempt at the blueline.

The relief among the Flames couldn't be missed.

"First, he does the Michael Jordan to get the puck, and that shot was a bullet," said left winger Eric Nystrom. "That was a laser, with the old wood Sher-Wood right into the top shelf.

"And he did the one-legged pirouette after it went in. I love it."

The win was enjoyable, too.

When the final buzzer sounded, the shot clock read 51-23 in Calgary's favour. Still, the score was misleading, since Jarome Iginla added an empty-netter and then David Moss scored on a powerplay with 9.1 seconds remaining.

Until Iggy tallied, it was a nailbiter, even with the one-sided play.

"Budaj kept them in there -- 50 shots -- but for us it took 60 whole minutes to do it, and hopefully that got through to us it's how we have to play," said Flames centre Craig Conroy. "We do it like that, we'll be more effective."

Having had all that time to practise and ponder their last outing, it was a good bet the Flames would put their game into high gear. The result may be their best performance of the season.

"You talk about it for four days and then you know how important it is," Conroy said. "We knew they had won three in a row and how big it was for us. We had to win that game."

Marek Svatos scored for the Avs (8-9-0), while Rene Bourque added the other goal for the Flames (10-8-1).

If there could be one complaint about the Flames' performance, it was with the man-advantage.

Their one powerplay goal came on the final opportunity, after failing with their first seven chances, including a 90-second five-on-three.

"That's frustrating -- our 5-on-3, we didn't get much," Aucoin said. "When you're getting shots blocked, and it's a tight game like that, and when you're getting 50 shots on net and not scoring, it's quite a relief to get one in."

While Budaj's performance will deservedly dominate the highlight reel, Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff had a strong outing of his own. Even though he only had 22 shots to stop, Kiprusoff came up with a couple of key third-period saves on Hejduk and Svatos while the game was still in question.

The Northwest Division rivals meet again tomorrow night in Denver to complete their home-and-home set.


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