SUN Hockey Pool

Flames resurrect playoff hopes with win

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:26 AM ET

If everything went wrong, the Calgary Flames were facing the possibility of being eliminated from the playoffs Friday night.

Instead, they go into the latest “biggest game of the season” with the chance to tie the eight-place Colorado Avalanche.

Thanks to their 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday night, combined with Colorado’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames deficit is down to two points.

Up next is a clash with the Avs, with a chance to tie them in the points race.

“It’s going to be a war out there,” said rookie Mikael Backlund. “If we win, it’ll be tied. They still have a game in hand, but we’ll be tied for points. It’s going to be a big game.”

Just a few days ago, it looked like the Flames’ flickering playoff hopes were nearly exhausted with disappointing losses to the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders.

Beating the Coyotes on the heels of a surprising win over the league-leading Washington Capitals has given them new life.

“Even back in Boston, we knew if we just took care of our business we’ve got to a shot,” defenceman Cory Sarich said. “We need a little help, but it’s right there for us. It’s in our hands and we need big victory next game.”

The Flames both made their breaks and received some help from an old friend.

Former teammate Curtis McElhinney backstopped the Ducks — who are without star Ryan Getzlaf — to a 5-2 win over an Avalanche team which has just one win in its last six games.

Colorado has six games remaining, while Calgary has five.

Head coach Brent Sutter won’t have to go deep into his bag of motivational speeches when the clubs square off in Denver.

“Not much really has to be said. We know what the stakes are,” he said. “We knew going in ... if we did our job and got some help that we’d have an opportunity to go down there two points behind.

“It’s a big difference from where we were last Saturday.”

Amazing what a couple of victories will do.

But this one wasn’t as easy as the win in Washington.

Rene Bourque broke the scoreless deadlock late in the first period when Ian White’s crossing pass banked off his foot before the Saddledome sellout crowd of 19,289.

Then Ales Kotalik netted the eventual winner early in the third period with his second goal in as many outings.

From there, the Flames held on thanks to great goaltending from Miikka Kiprusoff in a 29-save performance.

He also had players paying the price, such as Backlund, who had a clutch block in the dying seconds of the middle frame.

“It hurt a little bit but if feels good it didn’t go in,” Backlund said. “I lost my guy, so it was good to make the block. If they score, it’s tough going into the intermission with a tie game.”

“I was doing my two-pad stack there, but it was a big play by him,” Kiprusoff said. “He made a nice save.”

Lee Stempniak scored for the Coyotes (47-25-6), his 13th goal in 14 games since going to Phoenix at the trade deadline.

But the Flames (39-29-9) held on for a deserved win.

“We needed a sense of urgency, and we got that,” Sutter said.

“There was desperate hockey played.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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