SUN Hockey Pool

Climb will Av to wait

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was busy again last night, facing 36 shots is a loss. (Sun Media/Al...

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was busy again last night, facing 36 shots is a loss. (Sun Media/Al Charest)

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

That ascension back to first place in the division is on hold for the time being.

It may never happen if the Flames play too many games like they did last night.

With a chance to overtake the Colorado Avalanche for top spot in the Northwest standings, the Flames allowed themselves to be lulled to sleep for much of last night's 3-2 loss.

First, they had the sleepy eyes through most of the first period, and then went into a short but deadly slumber in the final few minutes of the second period -- immediately after taking a 2-1 lead.

"It's been a problem a few times this year. We get a big goal, get the lead, and the next shift they get right back in the game," said Rene Bourque, whose shorthanded tally put the Flames ahead for a mere 42 seconds.

"We have to tighten that up. After a goal like that, it's important for us to have a good shift. That's what let us down."

After Jarome Iginla scored for the eighth time in seven games this month and Bourque put the Flames ahead, it appeared they had finally cracked the Avalanche trap for good.

Considering how the Flames had been on a roll while the Avs have struggled since their hot start, you couldn't help but figure the hosts were destined to win before the Saddledome sellout crowd of 19,289.

Those good feelings washed away quickly when Cody McLeod tied the game with exactly two minutes left in the middle frame and then Milan Hejduk netted the winner with a powerplay goal 66 seconds later.

"We had the game in a good position to that point, up 2-1 and starting to play (well)," said defenceman Robyn Regehr.

"It was a play we can't have happen, a two-on-two. That was the momentum they needed."

Regehr and Dion Phaneuf were the defencemen victimized on the tying goal. Regehr was in the penalty box when Hejduk scored the winner.

Hejduk's goal came with some controversy. He sent the puck toward the front of the net, and it originally appeared Darcy Tucker kicked it in. Video replay showed it went in off the skate of Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester.

The Flames (12-5-2) trail Colorado by three points and have two games in hand, so it's not like they don't have the ability to leap over the Avs.

However, it's the second time this season they've lost to the young Colorado team at the Dome.

"Losing at home to a team we're trying to take first place away from is pretty tough," said forward Eric Nystrom.

"We don't want to lose any games at home, let alone two to a divisional rival and a team we're competing with."

Ryan Wilson, who the Flames traded to the Avs in the Jordan Leopold trade at last season's trade deadline, opened the scoring with his first NHL goal. He also helped set up the game-tying marker.

Goalie Craig Anderson shut the door in the third period as part of his 34-save performance for Colorado (13-5-3).

His teammates lent a big hand in blocking 24 shots.

"I thought we lacked emotion here a little bit," Flames head coach Brent Sutter said.

"We kind of played ... like we were afraid to make a mistake. When you play like that, you make them, unfortunately."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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