SUN Hockey Pool

Showing some life

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 AM ET

So the Calgary Flames are going to make it interesting after all.

Capitalizing on an endless series of breaks, the Calgary Flames will wake up this morning for the first time in a long while feeling like the stars are starting to align for them.

Mimicking the intensity level of a crowd that provided a playoff-like backdrop, the Flames pieced together a gritty 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night that put the unpredictable hosts just two points behind the eighth-place Colorado Avalanche.

On a night when former Flames like Matthew Lombardi, Adrian Aucoin, Jim Vandermeer and even Derek Morris arrived as the obvious storyline, it was another former player who factored most heavily in the Flames playoff chase.

Curtis McElhinney threw together perhaps the finest effort of his career by backstopping the Anaheim Ducks to a

5-2 win in Colorado.

Inspired by seeing the Avs loss on the scoreboard, the Flames went out and extended a fortuitous 1-0 lead with a third period that saw them exhibit the type of desperation so dearly missing on so many nights here this year.

The lucky carom off Rene Bourque’s boot to open scoring late in the second period was just one of the breaks the Flames received on the night.

Not once but twice Lee Stempniak was denied the game-opening goal when he found iron from in close.

Miikka Kiprusoff’s brilliance — and a bit of fortune — allowed him to stave off a stunning first-period foray by the Coyotes that was so dominating the boo-birds came out at the tail end of a two-minute onslaught that somehow ended without damage.

None of this is to mention the fortune in having the Desert Dogs come off a late start in Vancouver the night before, forcing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to sit in lieu of Jason LaBarbera.

But above all, perhaps the mere fact McElhinney made 27 saves to steal a win in Colorado was the most crucial help the Flames had all night.

That’s not to be confused with the biggest shock of the evening, which was a goal from Ales Kotalik that stood up as the eventual winner.

All that said, full marks to the Flames for responding for the second game in a row to the most pressing matter, which is getting their own house in order before worrying about anyone else’s fate.

They did that.

And suddenly they find themselves in the most tantalizing of showdowns Friday for what could be a share of eighth spot in the west.

Mindful, of course, that the Avs have a game in hand and also possess the tiebreakers (wins and head-to-head), the Flames still haven’t been in this good a spot in what seems like ages.

Mentally or otherwise.

After the run of bad breaks the Flames have heaped on themselves to since the Olympics, no one in their dressing should or would dare apologize for the blessings they received last night.

They can only hope to generate such fortune again Friday in what will be a game that could obviously stop any forward momentum the team has suddenly drummed up.

The Avs are struggling, no doubt, and a legitimate playoff-bound squad would smell blood with Friday’s opportunity in front of them.

But these are the Flames, and given how schizophrenic they’ve been this year, they’ve had many shrugging their shoulders when trying to determine if they’re playoff calibre or even playoff worthy.

Last night, they were.

And because of it, things just got a whole lot more intriguing ’round these parts.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


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